INTRODUCING: The CRICKETish Cup

The WHAT?

The CRICKETish Cup is a “virtual” women’s county cricket cup, played in cyber-space by the top 9 county teams! It will take place over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of this month, with a play-off, quarter finals, semi-finals and a final.

The WHY?

With no women’s county cricket happening this month, thanks to You Know What, the CRICKETish Cup is a bit of fun to keep women’s county cricket in the spotlight.

The HOW?

The CRICKETish Cup will simulate matches, using real stats from last year’s County Championship, combined with a big random element to keep things interesting. Syd wrote the software, in a programming language called C# (pronounced “C Sharp” – like the musical note), and we’ve entered all the stats from Play Cricket into a database.

Alongside @WomensCricDay, @WomensCricBlog and womenscricket.net, we will be bringing you all the action “live” on Twitter, with score updates and match reports.

The WHO?

All 9 Division 1 T20 teams have agreed to take part and have submitted their teams: Wales, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, North East Warriors, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex and Warwickshire.

The SMALL PRINT

Although the CRICKETish Cup uses real stats, the outcome is very much down to luck, so don’t sweat it if your favourite player gets out for a duck or gets whacked for 30 off an over – it is just a bit of fun!

LIVE DRAW

FIXTURES

PLAY-OFF (Fri 22 May at 6pm) – Wales v Somerset

QUARTER-FINAL 1 (Sat 23 May at 11am) – Durham v Play-Off Winner

QUARTER-FINAL 2 (Sat 23 May at 11am) – Sussex v Lancashire

QUARTER-FINAL 3 (Sat 23 May at 3pm) – Kent v Surrey

QUARTER-FINAL 4 (Sat 23 May at 3pm) – Hampshire v Warwickshire

SEMI-FINAL 1 (Sun 24 May at 11am) – Winner of QF 1 v Winner of QF 2

SEMI-FINAL 2 (Sun 24 May at 3pm) – Winner of QF 3 v Winner of QF 4

GRAND FINAL (Mon 25 May at 6pm) – Winner of SF 1 v Winner of SF 2

NEWS: Clare Connor Looking At Retainers For Some Domestic Players; But Admits Men’s Cricket May Take Priority This Summer

The ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, has admitted that following the cancellation of The Hundred there may be no professional women’s cricket at all played in England this summer, but has softened the blow with the announcement that the ECB are looking to introduce interim “retainers” for some players below England level to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking to members of the press via a Zoom conference call, Connor said that she remains steadfastly committed to her vision for the women’s game, in the face of the unprecedented possibility of a summer without cricket and a Β£380 million black hole in the ECB’s accounts.

Whilst admitting that “there is no part of the ECB that has been afforded ring-fenced funding”, Connor said that the Β£20 million allocated for women’s and girls cricket in 2020-21 was still the budget they were working to; and that the ECB was planning to address the financial worries of those who had been hoping for full-time domestic “Centres of Excellence” [CoE] contracts this season by awarding a number of “financial retainers” to tide them over.

Although these retainers would not quite be a full time salary, they would be part-way to full professionalism, with the players being expected to commit to a full Strength & Conditioning program, overseen by their CoE coaches, as well as undertaking mandatory anti-corruption and anti-doping education programs online.

With the ECB facing an enormous financial deficit, Connor conceded that bringing in revenue by playing men’s Tests, behind closed doors but on TV, may have to take priority over playing women’s internationals:

“We’ve got long-term ambitions for the [women’s] game that extend beyond this summer, and trying to protect as much investment as possible over the next five years is largely going to come down to how much international men’s cricket can be staged this summer.”

However, she said that she remained hopeful that at least some international women’s cricket could be staged this season.

England’s series against India has been postponed but at this stage not officially cancelled, and the later series against South Africa is in theory still on the calendar “as was”. But with only a limited number of bio-secure venues available, Connor admitted that prioritising the men’s games, which would bring in the money the game as a whole desperately needs, could be “a hit we might have to take”.

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Vodcast – Social Isolation Edition – Episode 7

Raf & Syd discuss the postponement of the Hundred to 2021; Cricket Australia’s centrally contracted player list for 2020-21; the possibility of the PCB raising a dispute with the ICC over the splitting of their Championship points with India; and might we see international cricket being played in July?

Plus… thanks once more to the magic of green-screen, we’re at a county match; but where and when? (It’s a tough one this week, so we’ll post a clue on Twitter later!)

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Game by Jake Perry

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The Secret Game by Jake Perry (occasionally of this parish) is not the first book to be published on the history of Scottish Cricket. But when David Drummond Bone published his Fifty Years’ Reminiscences of Scottish Cricket back in 1898, little can he have imagined that it would take not just another fifty, nor even one hundred, but more than 120 years for a second volume to join it on what must be one of the shorter bookshelves in cricket’s library.

This is partly because, as the title – The Secret Game – hints, cricket has largely remained outside of the mainstream media discourse in a country where football has long been the alpha and the omega. (It is no coincidence that for all of England’s supposed obsession with football, it was Scotland’s Hampden Park which was for a while the largest football stadium in the world, and for many more years by far the largest ground in Britain, with a capacity between the wars of 150,000 – considerably more than any modern stadium anywhere.)

Although it is a book about history, The Secret Game is not a “history book” as such. Though it is presented in chronological order it is more like a medieval bestiary, with each of its 14 chapters focusing on an individual (or in some cases, a family) who had a particular impact on the development of the sport in their time and place.

It begins with the Lillywhites (yes, those Lillywhites, whose name still remains synonymous with sporting goods) playing a game which was (as Arthur Dent might have put it) almost, but not entirely, unlike cricket at Kelso on the Scottish borders in the 1850s; and ends with brother-and-sister internationals Gordon and Annette Drummond in the 21st Century.

Along the way it takes in Bodyline “Bad Guy” Douglas Jardine (English Captain, Scottish Heart) and his great rival, “The Don” Bradman (From The Ashes), and Scotland’s greatest ever woman player, Kari Carswell (Pushing The Boundaries).

Some may say that Carswell is “Scotland’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint”. But to those who really know, it is more that RHF was merely as close as anyone south of the border has ever come to being “England’s Kari Carswell”. Player, captain, coach, manager and administrator – Carswell was at some stage each of those… and occasionally almost all of them at once!

It is to Carswell’s chapter that those of us who love the women’s game may well turn first, and The Secret Game is definitely a book you can dip in and out of. But if you should do so, you should not omit to return later and cover the rest of the ground Perry rolls out – a voyage in vignettes, from the lochs to the lowlands, taking in the landscape of a game which is not quite so “secret” any more.

OPINION: Women’s Cricket Risks Being Forgotten As Men’s Game Fights For Survival

Over on ESPNCricinfo, Senior correspondent George Dobell yesterday laid out the dilemmas facing the ECB board as they meet today with cricket facing an unprecedented crisis due to Coronavirus.

There are question marks over all aspects of the men’s game – Tests, ODIs, the County Championship, The Hundred, The Blast… the list goes on! Men’s cricket is in desperate, desperate trouble. Although it has emerged that the ECB has some insurance against the impact of a global pandemic, this is limited and unlikely to pay out for months, if at all – with the insurance industry itself staring down the barrel of a smoking volcano.

The men’s counties meanwhile are… to put it politely… absolutely stuffed. Most of them live year-to-year with few reserves, and none of them are in any position to meet their obligations without the ongoing income from a combination of TV, gate receipts and hospitality. If the season were to be totally cancelled, several would likely go bust, with the ECB looking on helplessly from the sidelines.

Given this situation, it is understandable that the priorities at the forefront of people’s minds are to try to get some men’s cricket – any men’s cricket – played this summer, with talk of “biosecure” internationals and domestic cricket being live-streamed from behind closed doors.

But while the men desperately debate science-fiction solutions, the women’s game risks being totally forgotten.

Yes, technically, The Hundred is women’s cricket; but while all the talk has been about male players potentially losing their lucrative big-money contracts, no one seems to have quite clocked that for the majority of female players, The Hundred was going to be their only source of cricketing income this year – without it, they will be back to their pre-KSL status – 100% amateur.

The problem is magnified when you remember that the Centres of Excellence, which were supposed to offer full-time professional domestic contracts to an additional 40 non-England players, have essentially been put “on hold”. Although no contracts had been signed, several players were led to believe they would be getting one of these deals, and so not unreasonably put off other life decisions on that understanding. While the long-term investment is secure, as far as the players are concerned they now look set to get a big, fat cheque for absolutely nothing until next year at least.

Even what remains of national level women’s county cricket – the T20 Cup – has been pretty much ignored. We assume it counts as “recreational” and has therefore been effectively cancelled on that basis, but as far as we are aware no one has officially come out on the record and said so, and the fixtures are still listed on Play Cricket, the competition’s official web site.

In the fight to keep the men’s game alive, the women’s game is clearly not the main priority for many of those who have any influence on this situation. But nonetheless we’re still here – we still exist, we still matter… and we won’t be forgotten.