ICC Chair Greg Barclay’s Women’s Test cricket comments are concerning for format’s future

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The future of Women’s cricket and Test cricket will not work together, suggests ICC Chief Greg Barclay.

The current head of the ICC has been heavily criticised for recent comments he made regarding the future of Test cricket and the sustainability of Women’s Tests in particular.

Speaking to the BBC Test Match Special, the head of the International Cricket Council said: “I can’t see women’s Test cricket evolving at any particular speed.”

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These comments came shortly after he was supporting Heather Knight’s wish for five day Test matches in the women’s game.

Barlcay said: “Most people would say five days are required. Absolutely, if they are going to play it, my personal view is that they should have five days to play it in.”

However, this supportive tone was quickly swapped for one offering a much more archaic, regressive perspective that has once again cast a dark shadow over the development of the women’s game.

In recent months, women footballers have been called out for being ‘more emotional’; women’s tennis has been referred to as more boring than men’s tennis and several journalists and writers walked out of the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards dinner, after the guest speaker allegedly made continuous racist, sexist and homophobic comments.

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Now it would appear it’s the world of cricket’s turn next in this incessant run of challenges and struggles.

Australia captain Meg Lanning leads her squad off the pitchAustralia captain Meg Lanning leads her squad off the pitch
Australia captain Meg Lanning leads her squad off the pitch

The top dog of the highest cricket organisation in the world has come out and publicly stated: “To play Test cricket you have got to have structures domestically. They don’t really exist in any of the countries at the moment. I can’t really see women’s Test cricket evolving at any particular speed.”

You might have imagined that in response to saying that the structures don’t exist, you would strategise ways in which you could help implement them and encourage women’s Test cricket to grow.

But no, apparently not.

Instead we are left with an overwhelming sadness that the sport is on track to do little to nothing to help encourage, promote and implement certainty in Women’s Test cricket.

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Unsurprisingly, Barclay has received numerous complaints for his words, with Australia captain Meg Lanning voicing her response to the comments.

Speaking to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Lanning said: “We understand that not every country in women’s cricket is at the point where Test cricket is a main focus and hopefully that can continue to develop over time.

“What was a touch frustrating was that we want to be ambitious, and see what’s possible.”

Lanning finished by saying: “It’s about being open to the possibilities and being ambitious with where we want to go with the game…We understand that not every country has the platform and the pathways and the resources to get it up at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards it.”

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Not only were the ICC Chair’s comments hugely damaging to what should be a positive and hopeful discussion of the future of women’s cricket, but he has also made clear where he stands on the position of Test cricket as a whole.

The Test format is the historic foundation of cricket. It’s where the real battles take place.

Who is able to endure five days of intensity and concentration all while maintaining the highest level of skill with bat, bowl and in the field?

However, in Barclay’s words, there is no intention to help keep what now appears to be a dying art alive: “If you look strategically at the way cricket is going there is no doubt that white-ball cricket is the way of the future.

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“That is the game sought after by fans. It is where broadcasters are putting their resources. It is what is driving the money.”

What a depressing sentence.

Evidently, the commercialised element of the world appears to be intent on wiping out an iconic and fundamental format of cricket.

Any cricketer who speaks on the subject says it is always the highest j to play international Test cricket for their country.

Adil Rashid, as one example, recently spoke out on his excitement at potentially working under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes saying: “It’s everyone’s dream to play Test cricket and I’m no different.”

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Adil Rashid in a Test match in 2018Adil Rashid in a Test match in 2018
Adil Rashid in a Test match in 2018

England and New Zealand have been involved in two exhilarating Test matches in the past month, with England enjoying three centurions in the second Test match at Trent Bridge.

After the buzz of what was one of England’s most exciting Test matches in recent times, it feels such an unnecessary critique to suggest the future of Test cricket is falling away.

Additionally, with the number (or lack thereof) of women’s Tests that take place each year, the ambition should not be to minimise these opportunities to exhibit such talent.

With the Test format being such a historic and essential root of cricket, we should not be driving the women’s game away from this.

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How are the women’s Test matches supposed to drive interest and audience if they do not exist?

However, with such an apparently closed-minded boss at the top of the food chain, both cricketers and fans need to speak louder if their wishes are to become a reality and if the future of Test cricket, for both men and women, is to have any longevity.

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