It’s been a rather eventful World Cup thus far (Wednesday’s washout at Derby not withstanding). We’ve even seen two “upsets” – India beating England in the first match on Saturday, and yesterday, India beating West Indies by 7 wickets.
Both times the media have swooped down upon the result and devoured it like hungry ravens. England’s loss to India, in particular, created some stark headlines in the mainstream press (headlines are not, it’s worth remembering, written by the journalists actually reporting on the game):
Similarly West Indies have now lost 2 games by very wide margins, and it looks increasingly unlikely that they will make the semi-finals.
But is any of this really so surprising?
England are a young side. They have many weaknesses: one of which is that they are NOT good at chasing. India, meanwhile, have enjoyed an incredibly successful few months – including 10 wins out of 11 ODIs that they had played in 2017 prior to the start of this tournament.
It was always likely, therefore, that England’s game against India would be a potential banana skin for them in this tournament – just read Syd’s piece here.
Unfortunately, given England’s thumping of Pakistan last summer, expectations tended to ignore the reality of the situation.
What of West Indies? Here is another case study of where media hype around a team comes into its own. Because if you take performances by West Indies in isolation – their victory against Australia in last year’s WWT20 final, their status as finalists in the 2013 World Cup – then of course they look like a good bet to do well in this tournament.
If, however, you dig a little deeper, it becomes apparent that West Indies are the most inconsistent side in global women’s cricket. They were about a gnat’s whisker away from being knocked out before the semi-finals of last year’s WWT20. And their ODI performances have been all over the place in the last 4 years, as I pointed out in my preview piece here.
Actually you don’t even have to dig that far. Just listen to what captain Stafanie Taylor said on the eve of this tournament:
“If I don’t play in a game, the team seems to struggle. I have to remind them that you guys do have the belief and you’re talented, and you can do it. A lot of us lack that belief, so it’s [my job] to remind them of that.”
When you take England’s loss to India and West Indies’ poor start to this tournament in context, then, neither are really “upsets” at all (hence my use of inverted commas).
In fact, to label them as such is actually rather lazy journalism. The trouble is that a lot of those covering cricket only bother to watch the finals of women’s tournaments, and / or the few games a year that happen to be televised. Very little attention is paid to what happens in between.
We want more media coverage of the women’s game, of course we do – and this World Cup is doing a brilliant job of that. But what we also need is well-informed journalism, based on a more than surface-level knowledge and understanding of the global women’s game. Unfortunately, as we’ve already seen in this World Cup, we haven’t quite got to that stage yet.
Let’s keep pushing for it all the same.