The ECB have confirmed to CRICKETher that they are “in discussion with the counties” over the future of women’s county cricket after the 2021 season.
The ECB had previously implied that the 2021 County T20 Cup would be the last of its kind, having granted the competition a stay of execution back in 2019 for the next two seasons.
However, many of the new Regional Directors of Women’s Cricket, as well as many of the regional coaches and players, see county cricket as playing a crucial role in the domestic set-up going forwards – putting pressure on the ECB to rethink their initial decision.
“It fills a step in the pathway,” Richard Bedbrook, South East Stars Regional Director, told CRICKETher. “It adds value for players of all levels – for players coming through the age group pathways who might aspire to reach a regional level, they can do that knowing that they’ve got a platform to do that at county level.”
“When you’ve got two counties like Kent and Surrey, who are proud of what they’ve done in women’s cricket, the ‘recreational’ tag is a bit of a misnomer. Every [regional] player that has represented those two counties turns up with a mindset that is no different to a Stars game.”
Tash Farrant, who captained Kent in their successful bid to top the South East group in the regional County T20 competition, said that lifting another trophy for her county had been a great start to the season, and added that county cricket had played a crucial role in her personal development as a player.
“Being part of a Kent team that has been so strong for a very long time, I’ve been very lucky in terms of the standard being really good – it’s always pushed me,” she said.
Several younger players have this season used county cricket as a springboard to claim spots in regional squads – notably Hampshire 18-year-olds Gemma Lane and Finty Trussler, who were both late additions to the Southern Vipers side.
Farrant recognised the importance of this, telling CRICKETher: “Another great thing about [county cricket] is the mix – seeing some of the younger Kent girls coming through and then coming into our women’s side and performing. For example Kalea Moore has now been given a South East Stars summer contract. It’s really important to get more experienced players playing with younger girls coming through.”
“It’s all about getting in as much cricket as possible. Before, we haven’t really had a proper long season, whereas this season we’re playing from April all the way through to October, which is exactly what we want – a proper season where a lot of girls are going to get opportunities.”
The ECB themselves discussed the role of county cricket in their review of the inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, carried out in October 2020, and concluded that it still had a useful role to play. While no concrete decisions have yet been made about its longer-term future, it seems unlikely that the ECB’s ongoing conversations with the counties will do much to change this sentiment.