Today the ECB have announced that what we thought would be the new city T20 franchise league will actually be an 8-team domestic competition played according to the totally-not-tried-and-tested format of 100-ball cricket.
Today the ECB have not only thrown common sense to the winds but appear to have entirely ditched their commitment to developing women’s cricket.
We already knew that the end of the Kia Super League was probably nigh: the lure of a brand new T20 competition, to be played in an aligned way with the new men’s franchises according to the BBL / WBBL model that has been so successful in Australia, was too strong to resist.
In itself that hurt. We – and by that I mean not just CRICKETher but the administrators, the fans, the coaches and the players – had poured our hearts and souls into the KSL. We wanted to make it work, and it did: audiences in their thousands, including nearly 3500 spectators at last year’s Hove Finals Day, were finally paying attention to domestic cricket.
But we could deal with the hurt, because we thought that maybe something better, or at least equally good, was coming.
How wrong we were.
This new 100-ball format, the ECB says, will provide “clear differentiation from other competitions” and be “distinct from the popular Vitality Blast”. The fact that the new competition will blast a nuclear hole through the women’s domestic pathway in England is not so much glossed over as ignored completely.
KSL is the only top-level T20 cricket that our domestic players get. There is a county T20 tournament, but the two competitions are frankly incomparable. The Super League is a paid competition which features the best players from all over the world. The women’s county T20 competition is amateur, unpaid, and short-lived, with each side playing a maximum of 7 games a season. For that reason it tends not to attract overseas players.
And yet this, from 2020, is what we will be left with: all players below England level having 7 T20 games a season to learn the format that is at the fundamental heart of women’s international cricket. It is farcical.
Clare Connor states in the press release that for women players this competition represents “an exciting stage upon which to display their talent”. But will players like Sophie Devine and Meg Lanning really want to come to England to play “100-ball cricket”? Why would they? Do the ICC have plans to introduce a 100-ball World Cup?
3 years ago, when plans for the Super League were first announced, I was so excited. I wrote that there was “much to celebrate, and much to look forward to”. It felt like the development of the women’s game was being made a priority.
Today, as I read incredulously through the ECB’s press release, all I could see was the total lack of consideration that those high up making these decisions have given to the women’s game. Make no mistake: for women’s cricket, 100-ball cricket is a nuclear disaster waiting to happen.
See also: The 100 Is English Cricket’s Vietnam