Heather Knight has just won a World Cup. But if you ask her to tell you about her favourite innings for England, she will tell you straight: it was making 157 in the 2013 Ashes Test match at Wormsley. “It was the making of me as a player,” she told me in a recent interview.
There are many reasons not to abandon women’s Test match cricket. I have previously articulated them here. TLDR:
- Multi-day cricket provides a tactical and physical challenge different to any other format. When else will female players get the chance to bat for an entire day?
- Women’s Tests have been played since 1934 – ODIs have only been played since 1973, T20Is since 2004. History matters in women’s cricket just as much as in the men’s version.
- Are you a fan of men’s Tests? If we let women’s Test cricket die, you can bet that men’s Test cricket won’t be far behind. England, Australia and New Zealand Women have all been playing Test cricket far longer than men’s teams from Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
But perhaps the most important reason is the attitude of the players themselves.
Mithali Raj recently captained her team to the final of a World Cup, but even at an event celebrating that very fact, she was quoted as saying the following: “Test matches are the ultimate test for cricketers, whether it is your temperament, skill or endurance… I feel Test matches should be played as frequently as limited over games because they churn out quality players.”
Suzie Bates, one of the most talented female cricketers there has ever been, made her debut back in 2006; she has played in global finals, was Player of the Tournament at the 2013 World Cup, but when she retires there is one thing she will rue, despite everything: “Probably as I’ve got older I feel a bit cheated that I haven’t had the opportunity to play in a Test… Test matches are the pinnacle of cricket.”
If you get the chance, just ask any of the players in the England Ashes squad right now – a squad who have just won a World Cup – what it is that they are most excited about this winter. They will all tell you the same thing: the four-day encounter against the old enemy at the North Sydney Oval. Putting on that white shirt with the three lions. That’s what they will all be hoping they get to do.
Richard Clark makes an excellent point: the players know limited overs cricket far better than they know Test match cricket. But the answer isn’t to throw away the oldest – the pinnacle – format. The answer is to play more Tests.
Over to you, ICC.
Plenty of arguments to be cited in favour of Tests. The players love them, of course, and it’s a great opportunity to increase their total amount of playing time as well, which is always a concern caused by the insufferable scheduling of International matches. And what other type of player or ability might develop if the Test format was allowed to expand to a standard Test match in every bilateral series? Who can say? That would definitely be a wonderful thing, but who would fund it and would it attract enough interest to remain viable?
Although I couldn’t watch much of the 2015 Ashes Test live, from what I did see of it I actually largely disagree that it wasn’t enjoyable. Of course, it’s often stated by less friendly parties that women’s cricket is less exciting than men’s; and as men’s Tests can drag at times, so we should expect women’s too as well. I found it an engaging if anxious watch on that Friday night as we battled for an unlikely draw; with Perry charging in and threatening with her short ball, and seeing Elwiss construct the best of England’s innings at one end while Greenway dead-batted everything at the other in obstinateness. It was hardly the worst cricket I’d ever seen.
I do feel that the format needs to expand to survive, though. Having just one match every 2 years between the same 2 sides – that sounds more like a privileged club than anything else. If there’s no way of bringing in even say 3-day games between all the other International sides, then surely from a strategic viewpoint it’s a fruitless exercise that can only cling on for one reason – the only remaining test is part of an iconic and celebrated bilateral series. It’s not a position of strength that women’s Tests can easily expand from.
I have seem most of the Womens Ashes Series since we beat Australia in 2005 at New Road,Worces,for the first time in 42 years.It was a fantastic achievement and the celebrations with the England Mens Team in Trafalgar Square,London were magical–a great double for the England teams.Since 2005 England have had the upperhand over Australia in the Womens Ashes Series both home and abroad.I think stand alone Test Matches are quite simply not commercially viable.Clare Connors brainchild for the new Ashes under the new points system is excellent as it involves all aspects of Test,ODI’s and T20s and creates interest until potentially the last match has been played.Under the current points system Engand hold sway having won in 2013 at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton and in 2014 at The Bellerive Oval,Tasmania.Australia just pipped England in the Ashes Series in England in 2015,so there is all to play for in 2017.I think the Ashes multi point series against Australia is excellent,but stand alone Test Matches against other International Womens Teams are just not financially viable and would pull in less crowds than an average Mens 4 Day County Game.
There is plenty of reasons to move women to test matchs but we must put some realism into thoughtt process. The growth of womens cricket is the priority for the sport. For that to happen it is all about exposure. 2020 simply offers a far better platform for broadcasting and spectating. This is where the future lies for growth in womens cricket. Test matches could be the ultimate girl, but it is too early to speak of this as it will only fail and make it harder to undertake in the future.