UPDATE: Following guidance issued by the DCMS earlier this week, the ECB has now updated its roadmap. Sadly, spectators will not be permitted at ‘private’ club grounds until 17th May. We therefore have no option other than to CANCEL plans for this year’s Women’s County Cricket Day.
WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT WOMEN’S COUNTY CRICKET DAY ON BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY 3RD MAY!
Let’s kick off with a couple of assumptions about you, dear reader, before we get stuck in.
For starters, given that you’ve found your way to this page, that suggests to me that you’re not completely uninterested in the women’s game, so I’m not going to mount a passionate defence or justification of its existence. I’m going to take it that we don’t need to go there, that you aren’t one of the “boring/rubbish” merchants, that you are willing to be persuaded.
However, the fact that you’re here also indicates that maybe a little of that persuasion is needed – you’re intrigued, but maybe not entirely convinced that a day at a women’s county match would necessarily be a day well spent.
So I’m not about to explain or justify the bleedin’ obvious – the fact that the average woman won’t bowl as fast or hit the ball as far as the average man, and so on. We’ll take that kind of simplistic base-level debate as read, shall we?
Instead, let’s just note, accept, and park to one side the simple truth that there are differences between the way the men’s and women’s games are played. And I’ll be frank, if you’re not coming at this with an open mind, and if those differences are a hurdle that you just can’t see beyond, then – with regret – I’d suggest we call it a day now because I think we both know nothing I could ever say would change your view.
Having established that – and in the hope that you’re still with me – let’s go back to basics with a straightforward question. Do you consider yourself a “cricket lover”?
Every sport has its fans, its supporters, its champions. But to my knowledge, cricket is the only one that has its “lovers”, and I think there’s good reason for that. Cricket is not often a game that provides instant gratification. Even T20 games can have their slow periods now and then, relatively speaking. It’s also a game that takes time to learn, both in terms of its laws and the way it’s played in practice.
The upshot is that there is effort involved in becoming a genuine cricket follower. It’s not possible to walk into a cricket ground and instantly understand the basic idea of the game, in the same way as you can with, say, football or rugby.
Those sports have a relatively straightforward purpose that becomes obvious after just a few minutes watching. A newcomer could watch a whole day’s cricket and still not have much of a clue what everyone was trying to achieve.
It is possible to become a fan of “big match” cricket over a relatively brief period, to pick up enough knowledge and to get enough of a buzz from being part of a big crowd to be able to consider yourself a cricket fan.
But a cricket “lover”? That’s a different thing altogether. That takes time – years, even – and a real thirst to get to grips with the game, and with that comes an appreciation that cricket takes many forms.
Whilst the national team represents the pinnacle of the game in England, it’s county cricket that is its beating heart. I’d say with some confidence that the vast majority of cricket lovers will follow the county game, and they probably prioritise their county over England in terms of attachment.
County cricket is the comfort blanket, the reassuring presence from which your love grew. Personally speaking, I identify far more with watching Worcestershire at New Road than I do with watching England anywhere. It’s the journeymen, the outgrounds, the acres of seating all to yourself. It’s reading the paper while nothing much happens in the middle. It’s noticing there’s been a change of bowling about five overs too late, or absent-mindedly watching the heavy roller trundle up and down as if weaving some strange magic.
There’s nothing special about any of this if you’re not a cricket lover. In fact, it’s faintly ridiculous that this is what we do with our days. But we do it because if we weren’t doing it we would be doing something else that isn’t watching cricket. And that would be silly.
Covid-19 left a gaping hole last summer, and will impact the start of this season too. With only one or two exceptions, men’s county cricket saw no spectators at all in 2020, and it will be 17th may at the earliest before the turnstiles click this year. But women’s county cricket – like club cricket – comes under the ‘recreational’ banner, and different rules apply. Subject to Covid compliance, spectators will be allowed from 12th April onwards. So this is your chance to get an early start on your cricket-watching!
The fact is, if you love cricket, and if you love county cricket, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t love women’s county cricket – because it’s exactly the same. And that’s why we humbly suggest you get out and watch a match this summer, be it on Women’s County Cricket Day (Monday 3rd May, if you hadn’t heard) or any other day.
If you’re a Somerset supporter, get down to one of the women’s matches and support Somerset. Ditto if you’re a Lancashire supporter (get out and support Lancashire, that is, not Somerset!).and so on across the country. Whoever your county is, there is a women’s team who will be only too happy to welcome your support.
And not just in the “traditional” counties, where First Class cricket is played. From Cornwall to Northumberland and from Staffordshire to Suffolk there will be women’s county matches taking place. And let’s not forget that Wales and Scotland both have teams in the County T20 too!
Reunite yourself with county cricket at what you might call an “outground”, because the vast majority of matches across the summer will be played at small grounds, often in small villages. Does that detract? Not a bit – if anything it adds to the game, it brings the spectator closer to the heart of things rather than feeling lost in an empty arena full of empty seats.
It’s cricket back to basics, if you like. Free admission to just about every match, free parking too (subject to availability, of course!), and the opportunity to stroll around the perimeter unhindered by stewards and obstructions. Probably the only thing missing this summer will be a bar to slake your thirst – sadly, Covid restrictions seem likely to deny us that pleasure. Never mind, bring your own refreshments!
You could well see one or two of England’s stars in action. Katherine Brunt for Yorkshire, Tammy Beaumont for Kent, or Lancashire’s Sophie Ecclestone. Or some of the stars of the fledgling Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Georgia Adams (Sussex) or Charlotte Taylor (Hampshire) maybe, both stand-out performers in Southern Vipers’ triumph.
Bring the kids – it won’t cost you anything. You never know, it may be enough to kindle their own interest in the game, more so if they get the chance to meet one of those aforementioned England stars. There will be space for them to run around, and if they (or you) get bored after an hour or so – well, you can quietly disappear without feeling a pang of despair at not having had your money’s worth.
With each venue hosting two T20 matches (11 am and 3 pm starts) you can stay for the day and see both, or just watch one and still have the other half of the day to yourself – the choice is yours!
I’m not going to guarantee you spectacular feats or nerve-jangling finishes. It could end up somewhat pedestrian fare, one side dominant, and over as a contest long before the end. But that’s no different from any cricket match – men or women, old or young. It may not be one for the annals. And if you find that it doesn’t tick your boxes, then what have you actually lost from the experience?
On the other hand, you might stumble across a proper thriller which goes down to the last ball with all results possible. Or an individual performance for the ages – it can happen when you least expect it, as we all know. You could see a star of the future – for every England player on show there will be another youngster who will eventually take her place in years to come.
It might be a match you talk about for years to come. Then again, it might not. That’s cricket.
Ultimately, though, the message is a simple one. Go and watch some cricket, and support #YourCounty!