In the past year or so, we’ve heard quite a lot about the new opportunities available in women’s cricket – players are paid to play and can now have a career in the game.
Some of the recent discussion has focused on a certain young South African – just finishing school – who has ambitions to be a doctor: cricket, it has been suggested, now offers her a real career choice… but does it?
That player could go to medical school now and have the guarantee of a settled, extremely well-paid job for the rest of her life.
On the other hand, she could choose cricket. She would have 10-12 years playing the game she loves, and she’d be earning a salary, but unless things take another dramatic turn for the better not a huge one, so she probably wouldn’t be able to save much over that time. She’d reach the age of 30 with very little in the bank, and the opportunities she once had at 18 long closed-off.
The problem is that what cricket currently offers women is really a “living” not a “career” – and whilst it is true that professional sport is always a bit of a roll of the dice, at least in the men’s game those who roll a three or a four will have several years of earning a substantial salary – not a fortune, but enough to buy a house outright and nurture a little nest-egg for their families; whilst those who roll a six and make it to their national teams or the IPL will never need to work again.
The women’s game is still an entire tier below that – of the current generation of players, you can count the number who will never need to work again on the fingers of one finger – it is literally one – whilst the rest, including all the other top internationals, will leave the field in their early 30s with very little but memories to pay the rent.
The opportunity to earn a living playing cricket is an amazing privilege; but it is still a choice – cricket or a career – it isn’t… yet… a career in cricket.