It’s September 2020. Yes, it is the month where the Indian Premier League (IPL) returns. Not just that, the age-old rivalry between England and Australia has seen six high-intensity and fiercely contested white-ball games. It was a fabulous series. There was a lot of build-up and hype and it lived up to the billing as well.
But hey, are we missing something? There is more cricket that’s going to start in September. And that’s international women’s cricket. But there is hardly any talk of that.
Let’s roll back a few months back. 8th of March, Australia vs India and at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). There was a stunning record number of fans – 86,174. Let alone eighty thousand, women’s cricket games barely see a few thousand turning up for games. In fact, the numbers even struggle to reach five digits in most of the games.
Women’s cricket was at its peak. And it has been on the rise over the last three years or so. Never before has it garnered so much attention. It was the center of attention and it hogged away all the spotlight.
But just when you thought there was no turning back for the women’s game, bang, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc. The world goes into lockdown and nobody knows what to expect. However, a few months down the line, things start opening up, there is positive news around and cricket starts resuming.
England announced their home season. But that was devoid of the women’s schedule. The international men’s calendar was full and has been completed as well without a game being lost. However, despite England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) mentioning that staging some sort of women’s cricket was on their minds, it didn’t seem there would be any.
Not only the ECB, but the boards around the world also put the women’s game on the back seat and didn’t prioritize it. Be it India, Australia, West Indies, Pakistan or any other cricketing nation hardly spoke about the women’s game. The only time the topic came up was when the scheduled series needed to be canceled or postponed indefinitely.
However, we now have some of the biggest women’s cricket teams returning to action. West Indies tour England for five T20Is. New Zealand fly across to compete against their Trans-Tasman rivals Australia in three T20Is and as many ODIs.
Yes, women’s international cricket had returned with Germany and Austria squaring off for five T20Is. However, the high-profile teams will be back in action in a few days. Yet, there is hardly any buzz around these.
Look at the hype and build-up for the IPL or the England-Australia series or for that matter look at the build-up that was there for the West Indies or Pakistan’s tour of England. There is no doubt that the comparison is not on at any level. But women’s cricket deserves its share of the spotlight. There are high-profile players involved. England are full-strength and so are the West Indies. There are big and marquee players across all the four teams.
Moreover, T20Is between these two teams have been at even-stevens with both teams winning eight games each. Hence, this promises to be a top-notch series. West Indies have arrived in England and the five-match T20I series begins on the 21st of September. They are stationed at the Incora County Ground which is Derbyshire’s home venue and it has been turned into a bio-bubble. This is the series that kickstarts women’s cricket between the top-tier nations.
Meanwhile, the Australia-New Zealand one is another high-profile series with full-strength sides. The White Ferns have flown to Brisbane which is the host for the six white-ball encounters.
With the 2021 Women’s World Cup pushed to early 2022, the focus will continue to be on the ODI format but with 2022 also staging another T20 World Cup, teams will need to prepare for that as well.
Like England-West Indies, the record in T20Is between Australia and New Zealand is almost neck to neck. The Aussies have won 20 while the White Ferns have won 19. However, that isn’t the case in the 50-over format. Australia are overwhelmingly ahead with a win-loss record of 93-31.
Thus, it’s high-time women’s cricket doesn’t keep going to the back seat. No doubt, that the men’s game garners a lot more attention and generates more revenue. But unless the women’s game gets equal importance and limelight in the time of crisis, there may never be a change.
And as England women’s captain Heather Knight put it, hope the pandemic and the postponement of the 2021 Women’s World Cup doesn’t serve as an excuse to halt the rise of women’s cricket. “Hopefully it’s not an excuse for boards to put women’s cricket on the back burner for the next 12 months with no WC to prepare for,” Knight put out a tweet reacting to the postponement of the mega event which was scheduled to take place in New Zealand.
Let’s put it this way. It is September. It is the month in which the IPL returns, it is the month where Australia resume international cricket, it is the month where England’s men’s team conclude their cricketing summer in its entirety. But it is also the month where women’s cricket resumes. It is back after a gap of more than six months.
Four big teams (England vs West Indies and Australia vs New Zealand) compete and restart their respective rivalries. Two of the biggest women’s cricketing nations (England and Australia) host women’s cricket again. It’s time they get attention and they’re not put on a back burner. Women’s cricket was on an all-time high back in March and that rise needs to be maintained.