Women’s cricket has been around for centuries. Females in cricket can be traced to the 18th century in places such as Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey in England. It was perhaps a novelty for many then and not taken seriously by most. Previously, the evolution of women’s cricket was understandably not at a pace akin to that of the men’s game. But all of that is changing and for the better.
The significant crowd present at the Providence Stadium in Guyana last week, their reaction to the intriguing battle that ensued between hosts West Indies and Bangladesh and their appreciation of the victory, demonstrated just how important the success of their West Indian women meant to them and all West Indians.
That the current ICC Women’s World Cup is not shadowing the men’s equivalent and is being showcased as an important global event worthy of standing alone speaks volumes of how far women’s cricket has come. It also should provide pointers as to how far it can go.
Cricket, and sports in general, is a multi-million dollar industry. Notwithstanding the cultural importance of the game to West Indians and most of those once under British rule, the economics of cricket ought to be on the consciousness of every little West Indian girl with an inclination towards the game but who previously thought that this was venturing into a man’s world. With a world population of 7.6 billion and women making up almost 3.8 billion of those, the idea of a “male-dominated” world is fast becoming a misnomer, if not already so. Women have the right to seek equal opportunities in every sphere of human activity.
Presently, nations across the globe that play international cricket have women under lucrative contracts and from indications discerned these contracts have been expanding in terms of numbers and remuneration annually. Of course, the level of remuneration will vary depending on the financial strength of the boards of specific countries. But it cannot be disputed that in most if not all instances remuneration is at a level that occasions a comfortable standard of living.
The advent of T20 franchise cricket provides opportunities for women even beyond the scope of representing the region. Women’s franchise cricket in Australia, England and India has captured the imagination of both male and female followers and already has seen the likes of Jamaica’s Stafanie Taylor and Barbados’ Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin benefiting from cricket contracts. With such developments at the international level, the time is now ripe for domestic and regional organizers to go full steam ahead to push women’s cricket to previously unheard of levels.
And where do we start? At present, there are regional tournaments for female cricketers but they do not encompass all the islands due to the fact that cricket is not developed with parity across the Caribbean. In much the same way that the men’s game developed over the years principally in Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and then the Leeward and Windward Islands, the women’s game has followed a relatively similar path. But it is improving. Women’s cricket in secondary schools played at the same level as boys’ is a must. Primary school tournaments involving girls must also be encouraged along the same lines that institutions such as the National Sports Council in Barbados promote the boys’ game. Of course, the number of girls interested in the game will determine if stand-alone domestic primary and secondary school tournaments will flourish. But a cricket nursery in our schools is a must.
Tournaments such as the ICC World Cup can be used to push cricket among the region’s females and promote it as a viable career path. We see where those involved in domestic women’s football and basketball have recently been complaining about the number of females involved in their sports. But we believe that cricket offers more opportunities and its international visibility seems more reachable than basketball and football. In essence, selling cricket to our nation’s women is an easier task. Our newspapers and television screens and laptops are now constantly splashed with the achievements of the region’s cricket stars. Our women have won a World Cup – unprecedented by regional women in any sport.
With the buzz of the ICC tournament across the region and the sporting eyes of the world fixed upon us, let’s hope this opportunity is not missed to make women’s cricket even bigger and better than it has become over the past decade.