What a Women’s County Championship could do for women’s cricket around the world
As England and Australia’s women undertake their final series in the Women’s Ashes, is it time for a Women’s County Championship to become a permanent fix?
The Hundred - with the women’s matches heading up the men’s - allowed cricketers from around the world to showcase their skills and talent in the shortest format that cricket has ever seen.
The media is becoming increasingly keen to publicise women’s cricket as a result of the rise in the T20 competitions, and England’s triumphs at the 2017 ODI World Cup caused an immediate incline in people’s attention towards the female game.
England and Australia are currently involved in their own Ashes series, with every ball is being shown on BT Sport - just as the men’s Ashes were.
Whereas the men’s game sees a five Test match series between the two historic rivals, the women play one Test match, one ODI series and one T20 series.
The multi-format game has attracted a lot of attention and drawn many fans into the women’s game, but the future of women’s Test cricket still looms in the air.
After the disastrous tour England’s men have just escaped from in Australia, critics rushed to jump on the idea that the increased pressures of one day games have sidelined the purest and most historic format, and cricketers coming up through the county ranks are no longer taught to prioritise or practice their Test cricket skills.
What an amazing dilemma this would be for women’s cricket to be in.
While the men’s cricket teams argue over whether the business of the cricketing calendar has meant England’s 2021 Test matches have been catastrophic, the women are still struggling to get any Test matches in the calendar in the first place.
Anderson has recently celebrated 169 Test matches, Brunt has played 14. Anderson has taken 640 Test wickets while Brunt has just 51.
Additionally, there is no evidence from players to suggest that the women are specifically anti-Test matches. In fact, it is just the opposite.
Speaking to the BBC, Brunt has said: “We’ve all grown up playing cricket, watching all three formats, and it feels a bit weird and wrong that we, as women, don’t play that format of the game.
“They can correct me if I’m wrong but I think most players would want to play more.”
As with all forms of progress, this imbalance cannot be something that is fixed overnight or by attacking the problem just from the top.
It must be something that starts right at the very beginning of any cricketer’s career in order for the momentum to be carried all the way through.
The men’s cricket season begins with the County Championship where four day Test matches are played week in week out from April to September.
The Women’s home game is much more contained and the only form of County Championship experience being played is the Royal London ODI Cup.
If the women’s game is going to progress to a stage where a full Test match series can be played then the formation of a substantial Women’s County Championship is the most logical and most successful place to start.
England coach, Lisa Keightley pointed out to BBC Sport that it is not just a matter of women not being able to match their male counterparts in the Test format. If the men’s Test team were only playing two Tests a year, they too would struggle to refine the required skills.
“We are asking the girls to play four 50-over games in a row, essentially. It’s really taxing on the body and on the mind.
“That’s the challenge when you don’t play that format; it’s a challenge of the unknown.
“One, you don’t know how you’re going to go and two, are you fit enough to cope. Do you have the mental resilience to be strong in mind and have the concentration when you need it?”
A Women’s County Championship, set up in the same format that the men’s Championship is, would give the plethora of talent within women’s cricket a chance to have consistent match-time, and an opening in understanding the difference in mentality and physicality from playing a one day match.
An introduction of more permanent, lower-pressure fixtures would not only signify a huge possibility in the development of Test cricket for women but it would also show the rest of the cricketing world there is true and forceful drive to increase the frequency of women’s Test matches around the world.
Of course, another major cause for a lack of development within Test cricket is the lack of money in women’s cricket around the world.
Countries such as Thailand, Canada and Nepal, where there is a severe lack of funding in the game, would not be able to conceive of creating their own version of a Women’s Championship.
However, as with every step of advancement and growth, there must be something that kick starts a more widespread movement.
In the case of women’s cricket, the England and Wales Cricket Board have the perfect opportunity to be that match to hopefully light up the possibility of more regular Test match fixtures on the women’s calendar in future seasons.
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