The news that plans for a “KSL-50” – a 50-over Super League to accompany the T20 KSL – have officially been abandoned (link) means that the Women’s County Championship is set to muddle-along for the next couple of years at least.
The problem with the KSL-50 was that it was the wrong thing to do in practice – there was no space for it in the calendar and the overseas stars who make the KSL what it is were not going to be available for a much longer competition with a very small budget.
But in principle, an elite 50-over competition is a “must” if England are going to look to successfully retain their World Cup in four years time – somewhere to blood the new players we will need by then, given that several members of the current team are unlikely to make it to 2021.
When the KSL-50 was first mooted, the suggestion was that the County Championship would become an “Age Group” feeder competition; but in a way that has already happened – with the England players mostly unavailable due to World Cup commitments, this was always going to be a year when the counties needed to raid their age-group squads for new talent.
But ironically, the KSL has actually made things worse in some cases, as older “county” players have found the pressure of County + KSL + Job + Life too much, and have decided to call it a day with cricket.
So whilst Australia press-on with the full-scale professionalisation of their domestic structures – both 50 and 20-over – we have Div 1 counties fielding teams of teenagers, with a dearth of senior players to support them as they inevitably struggle.
The importance of having senior players on the pitch can’t be underestimated. Earlier this year, I saw a young fast bowler struggling, as she sent down two wides at the start of an over. She was wobbling; but New Zealand wicket-keeper Rachel Priest came over… had a chat… and the bowler bounced back to take 2 brilliant wickets in the spell!
But without those senior players, the County Championship will count for less and less.
The good news is that there is a relatively easy fix – arrange the calendar so that all the England players can play all of the County Championship. After all – it is in the name – it is a County Championship… so make it count!
‘the overseas stars who make the KSL what it is were not going to be available for a much longer competition with a very small budget.’ Yes , largely true I think, the players who would have played in a 50 over SL would have been similar to those already playing County Champs. It matters little standard wise whether your top division is a 6 team event called the Super League, or an 8 team Championship first division. The way to ensure more elite players can play county is maybe to re-instate a few weekday county matches. I’m not saying we should go down the route of men’s minor county, where players need to give up 10 days annual leave to play all the matches, but we can at least have some weekday fixtures? I remember the likes of the ‘Taunton week’, why have ECB now decided all matches need to be on Sunday/Bank Holiday Monday?
Mentoring is key to the development of any young cricketer from Club level upwards. When my daughter moved into women’s cricket 8 years ago there were experienced players aplenty in the Sunday 2XI league, now there is no 2XI and the 1XI that used to be full of county players and even the odd international has been ravaged!
Even after seeing a historic lifetime event last Sunday I am left wondering whether the current women’s cricket structure from recreational upwards can support/mentor the expected surge in participation post WWC, KSL & Ashes?
At ECB level there was talk from CC of WSL academy’s that may have been a centre of excellence and allowed the sharing of knowledge to the next generation of professional players but I guess that has been shelved too?
The plus side is that more girls are getting a County opportunity from the CAGs pathway, but what about those who want to follow a recreational cricket path?
I hope the ECB have a plan to supplement All Stars and Women’s softball cricket.
The recreational path is dying fast, our league has lost another three clubs so far this season.
So far as I am aware our County now only has two teams playing competative league cricket.
As to softball, most women I spoke to found it patronising, weren’t sure what it’s aim was and, the session we saw was so badly attended they had to pressgang some boys to make enough for a game.