BOOK REVIEW: The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India

The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India by Sidhanta Patnaik & Karunya Keshav

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At the Women’s World Cup Final between England and India in July 2017, we were privileged to share the press box with three wonderful colleagues from India, two of whom have now collaborated on a new book recounting the history of women’s cricket in India, from the founding of the first modern teams in the early 70s, through to that dramatic day at Lord’s.

The story they tell begins, like the finest post-modern novel, near the end – with Harmanpreet’s remarkable 171 not out in the semi-final against Australia – before, with little pause for breath, we are whisked back nearly 50 years to the founding of the Women’s Cricket Association of India by a group of girls who, long before Cyndi Lauper, just wanted to have fun.

Sidhanta and Karunya proceed to take us on a 500-page journey – from the early days of travel by second-class train ticket, playing at third-class grounds in front of a handful of spectators; to flying business class to compete at global tournaments, cheered on by a TV audience of millions.

The tale is engagingly told through the eyes of the key protagonists – the players and administrators – many of whose stories are set down here on record for perhaps the first time. The borrowed bats and the dormitory pranks are one thing; but the authors don’t shy away from the more difficult issues, such as how one deals with one’s period in the middle of a vital match.

It is a book for the reader, rather than the statistician or the academic historian – matches are recounted more by a shot remembered here, or a ball recalled there, rather than with the clinical details of a traditional report. Sometimes reading a cricket book can feel like a drowning by numbers, but this book takes a more anecdotal – more human – approach; and is all the better for it.

Controversies, such as the 1986 tour to England, when a diplomatic incident was created as India slowed their rate to a 7-overs-an-hour crawl in pursuit of a draw in the first Test, are dealt with in a balanced manner – and notably more equitably than they have been in English print, where the Indians have been accused of “[playing] the diva card to new extremes” to quote just one example!

If there is one small criticism it might be that the writers are a little too ready to believe the propaganda of the other boards – particularly Cricket Australia and the ECB – that things are so much greener on the other side of the fence, compared to the privations endured over the years by the Indians – we have to tell you, they really aren’t!

English readers should also prepare themselves for a fair smattering of Hindi – it is (loosely) translated in-line, but it can be hard work nonetheless.

Overall though, The Fire Burns Blue remains a thoroughly affable read which deserves a place under your Christmas tree this season.

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PREVIEW: #WBBL…. Already?

Hang on… wait… it’s #WBBL already? I only just got used to typing #WT20! And now there’s another hashtag? It’s all too much!!

It’s all a bit too much for some of the players too – several of them, including England’s Heather Knight, who must feel like she has spent most of the last week on a plane, won’t be appearing this weekend. (The England players are required to take an 8-day post-tournament break, so we’ll see them next week hopefully!)

There are 23 televised matches, which you can watch in England via BT Sport, starting tonight at 2:45 am (i.e Saturday morning) with the Sixers v the Stars. All of the non-televised matches will be live-streamed at cricket.com.au, so it will once again be possible to watch every game your team play. (And I guess every game, as long as you have enough screens!)

Here at CRICKETher, Syd will be once again supporting the Hobart Hurricanes, due to a long-nurtured sense of fatalism and some vague Berkshire connections; while Raf will be rooting for the Adelaide Strikers, as long as they’ve still got Sophie Devine playing for them! [Yup – check – they have!]

Adelaide Strikers

After a disappointing past few months in international colours, the Dynamic Duo from New Zealand – Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine – will probably feel the pressure is off a bit as they pull on a different coloured jersey, and this could be bad news for everyone else. With Bates and Devine to open the batting the will be hoping to get off to some big starts, and their batting isn’t even their strong point! Their bowling includes current World No. 1 Megan Schutt, former World No. 1 Dani Hazell, Sarah Coyte, Amanda-Jade Wellington; and not forgetting that Devine herself was the second-leading wicket-taker in KSL this year! Having slightly disappointed last year, when they came 4th in the ladder, expect more this time around.

Prediction: Up There

Brisbane Heat

They’ve got Beth Mooney. And… er… hmmm… look… we love Laura Wolvaardt, we really, really do, but she just isn’t a Twenty20 player; and Sune Luus, their other big South African signing, still looks like a lost empire in search of a role – since her bowling went south, South Africa have tried to turn her into a batsman, which hasn’t been a total disaster, but hasn’t exactly been a roaring success either. Jess Jonassen is short of match fitness having spent #WT20 carrying drinks; while one-time Great White Hope Holly Ferling spent #WT20 back home watching on TV. They only just missed out on the playoffs last time – if they get even close this time, it will be a miracle.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon Challengers

Hobart Hurricanes

The WBBL’s perennial whipping-girls still don’t have any Aussie stars. What they do have is a new coach poached from Loughborough – Salliann Briggs – and the two leading run-scorers from KSL, Heather Knight and Smriti Mandhana. With Hayley Matthews, who seems to perhaps be at last starting to fulfil the promise she showed on her spectacular entry to the international stage when she powered the West Indies to victory in the final of the last #WT20 in India in 2016, things could be looking up in Hobart. A hurricane? Perhaps not! But at least a strong wind!

Prediction: In The Mix

Melbourne Renegades

Another team without any big Aussie stars, but they’ve got a few smaller ones, including Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham who are now officially World Cup Winners™, plus Tayla Vlaeminck who played in the group stages of #WT20 but not the final. Danni Wyatt always seems to turn up in Australia, and having Amy Satterthwaite on the bridge is always a bonus with bat and ball, especially as she comes with a free Lea Tahuhu boxed-in. They probably won’t make the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be a massive shock if they did.

Prediction: In The Mix

Melbourne Stars

To lose one Lanning (Meg, to the Scorchers last year) may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both (Anna, to the Renegades this year) looks like carelessness, and it is carelessness that the Stars look likely to pay for. At 34, Kristen Beams is a veteran who has seen it all before, but is also coming to the end of her career; and none of their other marquee players are quite superstars – Georgia Elwiss is very reliable, but isn’t going to set the world on fire; Lizelle Lee can set everything on fire, but seems to be out of matches more often than she’s not; while Mignon du Preez is one of the hardest working women in cricket, but as an accumulator she can’t do it alone in T20. They came second-to-last in the table last season – expect similar this time.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon Challengers

Perth Scorchers

The Scorchers’ key player last year was Katherine Brunt, but them playing her through a niggle which then flared-up into a full-blown long-term injury ultimately cost everyone big, as she missed the #WT20 for England and has obviously not returned to Perth either. Filling Brunt’s shoes are Kate Cross and Amy Jones, but they are big shoes to fill, and what the Scorchers could really have done with is another big batsman – someone like… oh, I don’t know… Meg Lanning! Lanning isn’t the most elegant player in the world (*hi Sarah Taylor*) or the most destructive (*waves at Harmanpreet Kaur*) but she has already broken many of the records in the book, and will surely break the rest before she is done. With her on board the Scorchers will surely be up there again this season.

Prediction: Up There

Sydney Sixers

They won it last year; they won it the year before – yer, let’s just say this: they’re gonna win it again! They don’t have Kim Garth this time  – the loophole that allowed her to play as a “rookie” has now been closed – but they still have Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, and Ellyse Perry from the Aussie contingent; plus Marizanne Kapp, who might not be officially the world’s No. 1 bowler, but would be the second name on many “World XI” team-sheets nonetheless, and Dane van Niekerk just for the LOLs – and there will be a lot of LOLs for Sixers fans this season, that’s for sure.

Prediction: Winners

Sydney Thunder

The Thunder have the most stable team in WBBL – no big names, in or out. It will be interesting to see how Alex Blackwell performs, having largely retired from playing, and indeed being a coach in KSL. Their overseas – Harmanpreet Kaur, Rachel Priest and Stafanie Taylor – are all capable of hitting huge runs… but equally all capable of not. They will need Ms Ultra-Reliable – Rachael Haynes – to be… well… ultra-reliable; and hope that they have enough bowling to keep things in check in the field. They came a solid second in the ladder last year – they probably won’t do quite so well this.

Prediction: In The Mix

NEWS: Sky To Televise Full Summer International Schedule

Following the announcement of the 2019 international schedule, CRICKETher can confirm that Sky will be televising every match.

This will be probably the busiest summer of international cricket ever in England, with not only the Men’s and Women’s Ashes, but the Men’s World Cup taking place in England, and inevitably some of the men’s matches clash with women’s fixtures.

However, Sky have pulled out all the stops to ensure that all the women’s games will be broadcast, even when they clash with the men’s matches.

Great news for women’s cricket fans, and a signpost towards a future where the women’s game stands tall alongside the men’s!

NEWS: 2019 Women’s County Championship Fixtures Announced

Alongside the international fixtures, the ECB have announced the windows for the 2019 Women’s County Championship, County T20 Cup and Kia Super League.

The County Championship will run in a block from the Mayday Bank Holiday weekend (May 5th/ 6th), through the “other” May Bank Holiday (26th/ 27th) and finishing on June 2nd. This means that the England players should be available for most, if not all, of the County Champs, with the international window not beginning until June 6th.

The County T20 Cup will run through June – starting on the 9th and finishing on the 30th – i.e. during the international window, giving opportunities to the younger players coming through the county ranks.

(Full county fixtures are here – use Quick Search to select “2019 Season”!)

The international window finishes on July 31st, so the KSL will then run through August, with Finals Day at Hove on Sunday September 1st.

NEWS: Summer 2019 Fixtures Announced – Taunton To Host Women’s Ashes Test

The ECB have confirmed fixtures against the West Indies and Australia for summer 2019, including the Women’s Ashes Test at Taunton.

The West Indies ODIs will count towards the ICC Championship, helping to determine qualification for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand.

The last KSL Finals Day is also confirmed for Hove on September 1st.

WEST INDIES

Thursday June 6

  • First ODI @ Leicester

Sunday June 9

  • Second ODI @ Worcester

Thursday June 13

  • Third ODI v @ Chelmsford

Tuesday June 18

  • First IT20 @ Northampton

Friday June 21

  • Second IT20 @ Northampton

Tuesday June 25

  • Third IT20 @ Derby

WOMEN’S ASHES v AUSTRALIA

Tuesday July 2

  • First ODI @ Leicester

Thursday July 4

  • Second ODI @ Leicester

Sunday July 7

  • Third ODI @ Canterbury

Thursday July 18 – Sunday July 21

  • Test @ Taunton

Friday July 26

  • First IT20 @ Chelmsford

Sunday July 28

  • Second IT20 @ Hove

Wednesday July 31

  • Third IT20 @ Bristol

KIA SUPER LEAGUE

Sunday September 1

  • Finals Day @ Hove

#WT20 – Australia Clinical v West Indies

In the end, it was all a bit like that scene in Indiana Jones – the West Indies sword had glistened in this tournament, as they spun it from hand to hand in a display of swaggering bravado… so Australia got out their gun and just shot them!

Make no mistake – the West Indies were up for this! On taking the early wicket of Beth Mooney, they were dancing just like they had in St Lucia as they bettered their key rivals in Group A – first South Africa and then England.

But Australia didn’t come to dance, they came to win!

It was quickly clear that the this was a pitch on which the big shots were going to play hard-to-get, so Healy and Lanning didn’t go for them – largely picking off the easier runs into the gaps and spaces to build the foundations of the innings.

When the time came to take some risks and accelerate, Healy selflessly took on a few more shots and payed the price, falling short of her 50, but Gardner and Haynes showed the value of having kept wickets in hand, pushing the rate on in the last few overs.

Was it a glamorous total? No!

Was it enough? Yes – obviously!

But it is also fair to say that it might not have been against a different team – a team that were prepared to play the same “percentage cricket” that the Aussies were.

But the Windies were not that team – go big or go home seems to be their motto; and the scorecard tells the story as the Aussies worked their way through the middle order – caught, caught, caught, caught, caught, caught.

Going big just wasn’t an option… so now they are going home.

#WT20 – England Face De-Facto Must-Win Day In Group A

Group A Played Won Lost N/R Points NRR
1. West Indies 2 2 0 0 4 2.275
2. England 2 1 0 1 3 2.799
3. Sri Lanka 3 1 1 1 3 0.381
4. South Africa 2 1 1 0 2 -0.527
5. Bangladesh 3 0 3 0 0 -2.162

It’s a big day in Group A in St Lucia, as England face South Africa and West Indies play Sri Lanka, with Bangladesh having a rest. All 4 teams playing today could still qualify for the semi-finals in Antigua.

South Africa and Sri Lanka are both in the last chance saloon – they will be eliminated if they lose; but if they win, they could still go on to Antigua.

The West Indies will qualify if they beat Sri Lanka – joining India and Australia in the semis.

England will qualify if they beat South Africa and West Indies beat Sri Lanka.

England will not mathematically go out if they lose; but…

If England lose and West Indies win, then England are actually in a lot of trouble – they would then need Bangladesh to beat South Africa on Sunday, which given South Africa’s bowling and Bangladesh’s batting looks unlikely! So in fact, this is de-faco a must-win day for England too!

#WT20 On The Move?

The ICC are rumoured to be considering the drastic step of moving England’s Women’s World T20 group to a different country, after the world champions’ opening match in St Lucia was washed out by heavy rain yesterday.

66% of the average rainfall for the month of November fell in 24 hours yesterday, turning the outfield at the Darren Sammy Ground into a soggy marsh, with the plastic sheeting used to cover the square and bowlers’ run-ups proving little defence against the deluge.

With further heavy rain forecast through the rest of the week and beyond, the tournament organisers were beginning to contemplate moving all of England’s Group A to Antigua, where the semi-finals and final are due to be staged later in the month.

Antigua obviously has the infrastructure to host the matches themselves, but moving 75 players plus officials and support staff alone would be a huge undertaking, not to mention the media and television crews. St Lucia has just one scheduled flight per day to Antigua, so moving the group would mean chartering planes for a military-style airlift, which may be beyond the resources of even the cash-rich ICC.

It would also prove bitterly disappointing for the spectators who have spent thousands of pounds to travel to St Lucia to follow England’s progress.

The good news, such as it is for England, is that if the entire remainder of the group were to be washed out, they would actually qualify for the semi-finals. The West Indies, whose opening game win against Bangladesh was played in Providence Guyana – the only Group A match scheduled to be played outside St Lucia – would top the group; with Bangladesh bottom and everyone else joint-second.

With two teams qualifying, the table would then fall back to seedings, which would see England qualify for a possible semi-final date with Australia.

#WT20 – Knight Hoping Tough Warm-Ups Will Pay Off For England

England captain Heather Knight is hoping that England’s tough warm-up schedule, which included defeats to the West Indies and India, will help them overcome their opening-game “hoodoo” which saw them lose their first match at both the last 50-over World Cups.

“In the ideal world we’d want to be winning those [warm-up] games,” Knight told CRICKETher on the eve of England’s WT20 opener against Sri Lanka. “But it is better for our preparation actually – not playing easy games that we win without being challenged or being tested.”

“The last 50 over World Cup we had really easy warm-up games – we breezed them and then and then we came under a little bit of pressure in the first game and weren’t quite ready for it, so I think we fact that we’ve been tested means we’ve had a taste of the conditions – we know exactly how we need to sharpen up and what areas we need to be better in.”

With Katherine Brunt out of the tournament, which Knight described as a “big loss”, she pretty much confirmed that Linsey Smith will open the bowling for England.

“The role she [Smith] played in the warm-ups and the KSL is why we picked her – bowling those difficult of overs at the top of the powerplay and towards the back end – something she has done very well in the warm-up games and in the KSL.”

#WT20 Brunt Out For England; Wilson Flying In

England have confirmed that fast bowler Katherine Brunt will miss the World T20 after she failed to recover from a flare-up of the back injury that has been plaguing her all year.

Brunt was originally injured playing for the Perth Scorchers in the WBBL, and there is a degree of feeling within the England camp that the Scorchers were not as careful as they might have been with their prize asset.

England nursed Brunt through the summer, and she played a full (and important) part for England in both formats against South Africa and New Zealand; but she began to creak during the KSL which followed the internationals, missing the Diamonds’ final match, and she hasn’t trained fully since, and bowled just 5 balls for England during the WT20 warm-ups before being unable to continue.

Having already had in mind that Brunt might not be able to play, England have come prepared with an alternative option to open the bowling – debutante left-arm spinner Linsey Smith might not be the most obvious like-for-like replacement, but she has opened the bowling regularly for the Southern Vipers/ Loughborough Lightning in the KSL and been pretty effective, with more powerplay wickets than any other England. bowler.

Brunt will therefore be replaced in the England squad by batsman (and gun fielder) Fran Wilson, meaning England have another option in the middle order if injury strikes or they feel they need it. Wilson will not however be available for England’s opening match on Saturday versus Sri Lanka, leaving a possible XI of:

  1. Wyatt
  2. Beaumont
  3. Jones +
  4. Sciver
  5. Knight
  6. Winfield
  7. Dunkley
  8. Hazell
  9. Shrubsole
  10. Ecclestone
  11. Smith