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.