VODCAST: England in India & Sri Lanka; Plus A New Initiative from Cricket for Girls

Raf & Syd discuss England in India and Sri Lanka; and Raf speaks to Lydia Greenway about a new initiative from Cricket for Girls.

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OPINION: Reading The Runes On England’s Warm-Up Win In Sri Lanka

England began their tour of Sri Lanka with a comfortable win in a “jumpers for goalposts” warm-up match against a relatively inexperienced “Emerging” Sri Lanka team in Colombo.

England fielded 13 players, with most of the squad getting a run-out with either bat or ball. Lauren Winfield top-scored with 82 (retired) as England posted 319, before bowling the Sri Lankans out in exactly 40 overs, with Heather Knight taking 4-13.

Reading the runes on England’s selections, it looks like Amy Jones, who scored 56 (also retired) will continue to open the batting in the ODIs with Tammy Beaumont; with Lauren Winfield maybe coming in at 3 ahead of Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, as she did in the 3rd ODI in India.

Bowling-wise, although Katherine Brunt has travelled to Sri Lanka, she was originally planned to be rested for this tour, and she didn’t play in the warm-up. Instead, Freya Davies opened the bowling with Anya Shrubsole – Davies finishing with 1-16 from 6 overs.

Does this mean Davies is nailed-on for the ODIs? It would be a bold statement of faith from the coach… but that’s exactly the sort of thing Mark Robinson likes to do! (Remember Linsey Smith, Sophia Dunkley and Kirstie Gordon all making their debuts together at the World Twenty20?)

England’s bowling is obviously a bit injury-ravaged at the moment, with Georgia Elwiss and Sophie Ecclestone both having flown home and straight into rehab, so other options are obviously on the table, but it looks like Sophia Dunkley is not one of them – she didn’t bowl in the warm-up, and it seems like England see her as a pure batsman at the moment.

Danni Wyatt however, did send down some overs – they were rather expensive (going at 7.8, compared to Freya Davies’ 2.3) but England clearly do have her in mind as an option.

NEWS: Indians Top Salary League At ₹50 Lakhs

The BCCI have announced this year’s central contracts for the women’s team, with the top players now earning ₹50 lakhs – the equivalent of about £90,000 per year – considerably more than England and on a par with Australia.

The four “Tier A” players – Mithali, Harmanpreet, Smriti and Poonam Yadav – will take home the top amount of ₹50 lakhs, with players on Tiers B and C taking home ₹30 and ₹10 lakhs respectively. Adjusted for “PPP” – Purchasing Power Parity – a measure of what your money actually buys in your home country, this corresponds to a salary of about £90,000 a year in England.

Top Tier Contracts Salary Salary (GBP by PPP)
India ₹50 Lakhs £90,000
Australia $140,000 £75,000
England £50,000 £50,000

In contrast, the top Australians currently earn around $70,000 per year in basic salary, which they can double via match fees and additional earnings. Although the ECB do not release the numbers for England players, those in the top salary band are understood to earn around £50,000 per year.

This means that the best Indian players are currently the best paid in the world, even before you account for income from advertising and endorsements, with the likes of Smriti now promoting everything from sportswear to contact lenses and skin cream.

This is particularly interesting given the perception that Australia and England are leaps and bounds ahead of the pack in terms of professionalism – though it should be noted that Australia and England both have considerably more than 4 player on top tier contracts.

STATS: #ENGvIND – England Get ‘Em In Singles; India In Sixes

In the press conference following India’s loss to England in the 2nd T20 in Guwahati, Indian stand-in skipper Smriti Mandhana said:

“[A] major difference between other teams and our team is running between the wickets.”

Do the stats bear this out?

Looking at T20 cricket only, we can calculate Boundary and Non-Boundary Strike Rates for the “Big 4” teams over the past two years.

Team Runs Balls 4s 6s Boundary SR Non-Boundary SR
India 3734 3224 401 77 432 61
Australia 2685 2073 351 41 421 62
England 2672 2186 313 32 419 67
New Zealand 3227 2616 365 63 429 63

The numbers show that although India’s Non-Boundary Strike Rate is the lowest of the Big 4, at 61 runs per 100 balls, it is only just less than Australia’s at 62, whilst England have the best Non-Boundary Strike Rate at 67.

On the other side of the coin, India’s Boundary Strike Rate is the best of the Big 4 – basically, they hit a lot of 6s, giving them a Boundary Strike Rate of 432, just ahead of New Zealand’s 429. Conversely, England’s Boundary Strike Rate is the lowest of the Big 4, at 419 – they don’t hit so many 6s!

Overall we can see that whilst these differences aren’t huge, they are at their biggest when you compare India and England. England are seeing the benefits of the back-breaking fitness regime introduced by Mark Robinson 3 years ago, running like badgers between the wickets; whilst India have a more… shall we say… laid back attitude!

(A cynic might note at this point, that England might also be starting to see the drawbacks of their back-breaking fitness regime – it is literally breaking their backs, with no less than 3 players from the contracted squad currently out with stress fractures of the lower back!)

So perhaps what Smriti should have said is:

“[A] major difference between England and our team is running between the wickets.”

But overall though, she is right – this is an area India need to be working on – they’ve already got the hitting – add the running and they could be the world-beaters they long to be.

INTERVIEW: Sian Kelly On Bringing Women’s Cricket To Argentina – “We have to explain that cricket is not croquet!”

The Warwickshire Wicket-Keeper Talks About Her Role Developing Women’s Cricket In Argentina

When you think of sport in Argentina, you probably don’t think of cricket! You think of football, of course, as well as rugby, tennis and hockey – but cricket…?

Yet as Sian Kelly – Cricket Argentina’s newly appointed Women’s Development Officer and national coach – explains to us over tea and scones at a posh cafe in Oxford, the game actually has a long history in the country.

“Cricket has been there since the English arrived in the 1800s to build the railways – we had a game a couple of months ago which was the 150th anniversary of when Uruguay and Argentina played their first game, so it has been going for a long time. The English built old sporting clubs, which were typical English gentlemen’s clubs which were not allowed for Argentines; but then over the years the English left, and the Argentines have taken over.”

Kelly first arrived in Argentina as a student on her year abroad, while she was studying modern languages at Oxford; but now she is set to return to South America in a new dual cricketing role.

“From August to September I’ll be working with the Argentine women’s team again, prepping them for the South American Championship which happens each year. Then October until March is the season over there, so my role will be Female Development Officer, making sure that each of the clubs have got a girls section and that they are running it.”

Long established it may be, but it is fair to say that cricket is not (yet!) a big sport in Argentina.

“Cricket is very much in Buenos Aires – there are 6 men’s clubs and also a lot of schools playing. It is mostly middle and upper class, English-speaking people that play; but on the flip-side we’ve got a charity that goes into the “villas” – the shanty towns – called Cricket Sin Fronteras – Cricket Without Borders – and they go into the schools in the poorer areas and use cricket as a way to get kids doing something and keeping them away from crime.”

Part of Kelly’s job therefore involves introducing cricket to people for the very first time.

“We have to explain that cricket is not croquet, because in Argentine Spanish it sounds very similar, so whenever you say ‘Have you heard of cricket?’ they say ‘Yes – from the Alice in Wonderland film!’ So I literally take 30 seconds to explain the rules, then they absolutely love it, because it is so new and different and exciting to them!”

“You add a bit of Spanish into the terminology, kind of like Spanglish, so you have ‘fieldear’ to field and ‘batear’ to bat; but you can’t really translate ‘Howzat’ so you just get the kids going ‘Haaawwwwaaaa!!!'”

Social attitudes can also be a bit of a challenge in what is quite a conservative country.

“The attitude to women’s cricket is… changing! Generally, men are quite happy for the women to play cricket, but where we come up against obstacles is when we want to mix the two together – we’ve had a couple of people saying that the girls can’t play with the boys, and a couple of teams that don’t want to play against a women’s team. But that’s slowly changing.”

Some other problems, however, will be more familiar to anyone working in grassroots cricket in England.

“Moving girls into adult cricket is a challenge – it is really difficult when you have one or two girls, because you end up coaching them by themselves and it’s not fun any more; but it will get easier when there are lots of teams to play against each other. So my idea is that these girls in the future don’t have to play against boys teams and don’t have to be the only woman in the club that is playing, but they can have a women’s team and play against other women’s teams.”

Unsurprisingly, money is an issue too.

“Depending on your ICC status, you get a certain investment each year, and you have to put that into youth cricket or the women’s – you can pay coaches to go into schools and that kind of thing. Each region in the Americas doesn’t get a lot of money – we used to be in Division 1 of the World League, but we’ve slowly fallen down, so we are getting less money now.”

“Before, a lot of the money went into the adult teams, because obviously they go to the major competitions and they can increase their ranking, and you get more money depending on where you are in the ICC rankings. But Cricket Argentina have gone back into the youth and grassroots now, so each club is getting a big base of boys and girls, and my job is to make sure that the girls aren’t left behind.”

It clearly won’t be a short journey, or an easy one; but with Kelly bringing her obvious enthusiasm for both cricket and her adopted country to the helm, we are guessing it will be a good one!

You can find out more about Cricket Sin Fronteras on YouTube here (in Spanish, but English subtitles available if you click the right buttons) and on Facebook here; and follow the Argentina women’s cricket team on Twitter here.

OPINION: Disappointed England Still Have Everything To Play For

England will be bitterly disappointed to have lost the ODI series out in India, having gone 2-0 down with one match to play. Having spoken to a couple of the players shortly before they left for India, including Heather Knight, whilst they didn’t underestimate India, they genuinely believed this was a series they could win.

England were even handed a bonus “Get Out Of Jail Free” card via the absence of Harmanpreet Kaur through injury, but they haven’t been able to capitalise as their batting has failed on both occasions.

This is an experienced batting line-up – England’s top 6 in the 2nd ODI debuted (on average) in 2010, with the most recent debuts in 2013. There are a lot of caps on those heads, but only Nat Sciver has come out and batted like it. Sure, there have been glimpses of the class we know these players have – Tammy Beaumont played a couple of glorious strokes in the 2nd ODI, but the only one anyone will remember is the horrendous slog-sweep she got out to!

Heather Knight played a fighting innings in the 1st ODI, but was out carelessly in the 2nd, underestimating the weight of a delivery from Jhulan Goswami and bunting a catch to extra cover. Sarah Taylor also misjudged the same bowler – there’s nothing necessarily wrong with driving at a ball half a mile outside off stump without moving your feet… but you better make sure you middle it if you do – Taylor didn’t, and it came off a thick edge to take out her stumps!

Overall, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that England batted poorly, more than India bowled especially well – there should be no excuses for this, and you can be sure that in the dressing-room there won’t be – both Mark Robinson and Heather Knight will see to that.

So with one ODI to play the series is lost, but there are still two ICC Championship points to play for, so England need to pick themselves up and go again on Thursday. Although they are currently 7th in the points table, the schedule is to their advantage, with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies at home still to play, so there is no need to hit the panic button, especially remembering that 4 teams plus New Zealand qualify automatically for the World Cup. But nonetheless, a couple of points on Thursday would give them some extra breathing room during the run-in.

All England need to do in these conditions is take a lesson from their opponents – there are no demons in these pitches, but there aren’t that many runs either – just keep calm and try to get a 4-an-over total of around 200 on the board by playing sensible cricket – basically, exactly what they did (and India didn’t) in the World Twenty20 semi-final just a few short months ago!

Mark Robinson: Dropping Farrant & Langston “Cruel To Be Kind”

England coach Mark Robinson has spoken about the decision to drop Tash Farrant and Beth Langston from the England squad, admitting it was tough on the players, who unlike the men have no professional county game to fall back on.

Acknowledging it wasn’t an easy decision, Robinson described Farrant as a “model pro [who] does everything right and gives herself every opportunity”, and he admitted that the decision was partly an economic as well as a cricketing one:

“You’ve got to create financial room for other players and room for opportunity on the pitch for Freya Davies and others.”

Going forwards, along with the support they get from the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Farrant and Langston will get 3 months of full support from England, including their salary package and medical insurance, but after that things get tough.

“That is the sad bit,” admitted Robinson. “It is the same as a [male] county cricketer being released – if he doesn’t get another job or doesn’t get another county that’s it. That is the unfortunate place we are in.”

However, Robinson’s take is that sometimes you have to be “cruel to be kind” to players on the fringes.

“With young players, you don’t want to string people on – it’s difficult – you have to be fair to them as well – you don’t want to release them at 26 and you’ve messed up their whole life.”

“I think at some point you’ve got to say ‘we can’t actually see you coming through’.”

But Robinson stresses that there is potentially a way back.

“Tash might re-invent herself – she could be a major player.”

“So for Beth and Tash their decision now is: do I play KSL and county cricket, then the year after, when hopefully semi-professionalism comes in, they do that; or do they go on to a different career?”

That, indeed, is the question…!!