The Sydney Morning Herald has published an editorial today which suggests that the next step for women’s sport in Australia is to go fully mixed. Non-contact sports like cricket, the piece argues, should lead the way here. It might not work, but if it did, it could “break down the entrenched attitudes”, not just in sport but in other fields too. “It’s worth a try,” the author concludes.
Actually, no, it isn’t. Mixed cricket would be a disaster for the women’s game.
Of course there are a few women who could be successful playing in a mixed international side (Sarah Taylor is the obvious candidate who springs to mind). But, overall, there’d inevitably be less women playing international cricket. Think about it logically. Even if rules dictated that there had to be a mixed gender split in the Australian cricket team – say 6 men and 5 women, or vice versa – that would still mean that only about 50% of the women currently representing their country would get to keep doing so. How is that a good thing?
Secondly it would negatively affect the grassroots of the game, and narrow the available talent pool – at a time when many women’s sides are already struggling for survival. Why is it that so many clubs – including those in Australia which offer the Milo programme for 7-12 year olds – are beginning to run girls-only training sessions? Because they’ve realised that not all girls want to play mixed cricket. Girls develop at different rates, are often less confident, and have sometimes (sadly) had less grounding in the game from an early age. They feel happier playing surrounded by other girls. If we impose mixed cricket on them, then many of these girls will be lost to the game for good.
And lastly, and most importantly, to suggest that for women’s cricket to be taken seriously it needs to merge with the men’s game is actually frankly rather insulting. Our sport is worthy of respect in its own right. It isn’t inferior, it is different, and we don’t want it to be subsumed into male-dominated structures. We want players like Sarah Taylor to be granted media attention and prestige for their world-class performances within the women’s game, not for there to be endless speculation about how well they might perform in the men’s game. One of the great things about the World Cup last summer was that this really did seem to be happening: women’s cricket really did seem to be becoming respected on its own terms. To suggest that the next logical move is to make cricket gender-mixed totally undermines that.
Mixed cricket isn’t something to “try out”, something to be taken lightly and that we can abandon without a second thought if it doesn’t work out. Of course it would shake things up. But would it really be a progressive move? I don’t think so.