A Ramble on Women's Cricket
And firstly an apology for the break in service - not that anyone has emailed to complain so I may well be typing to myself here. The reasons - well it's been a year of the best and the worst. I'll not trouble you with the worst and the best you know all about already. In fact I had already made my new year resolution to resume this typing in 2010 but was stirred to start earlier by a strange event.
Everyone in the UK will be familiar with the BBC's "Sports Personality of the Year" TV show. I am told the public votes for this individual but I am not sure who decides on the other awards presented on the night. Anyway last night the England men's team collected the team award. Well - quite right - after all they defeated the strongest Australian side in years to grab the Ashes, and did so well in the T20 World Cup. I remember watching McGrath, Warne etc. being thrashed all around the park and I travelled to the Oval for the T20 semi and Lord's for the final and ...
Hang on a minute ... am I thinking of another team, or another year? I am sure some in an England shirt were at the Oval and Lord's but was it Strauss et al there? Who were they I wonder... I felt sure I ran into them in Sydney early in the year too, clasping some silverware that said "World Cup" or some such. I must be getting old - memory playing me tricks - if the judges say it was the men then I guess dementia is setting in. Here's a picture of them I took when they held on to the Ashes. I'll give a prize to anyone who can pick out Andrew Strauss (or James Anderson or ...)
And the Quote of 2009 : Nicky Shaw
... who was not on the original team sheet until Jenny Gunn was obliged to withdraw minutes before the toss: "I started the day crying, I finished it crying, but we won a World Cup in between" (from an interview with Jenny Roesler following the World Cup Final in Sydney).
With England's tour to India well underway - indeed nearly over - and the same for the Rosebowl - there have been some strange results in recent times. When I checked the card on England's 1st ODI I had the sinking feeling of 'here we go again'. The fact there were six of England's out lbw worried me. The standard of Indian umpiring has not always matched the superb batting style of Mithali Raj and my heart sank. However, later cards have shown I rather rushed to judgment and England fared better in the end than they are wont to do in India with a 2-3 result. Had the likes of Claire Taylor and Holly Colvin been playing one is left wondering how different things might have been, but until women cricketers can make a career of the sport, life is forced to go on off the cricket field, with excursions onto the field when money and time allow.
And what about the newcomers? It seems both Heather Knight and Danni Wyatt (how do you spell Danni by the way - it seems different everywhere I look?) have excelled themselves at their first attempt for England.
Down under it would seem Australia have mastered the 50-over format but NZ have decided T20 is for them. As I type neither has been able to defeat the other in the alternative version. This is a very curious state of affairs. If anyone has an explanation or theory do let me know.
Have you thought of watching the World Cup T20 in the flesh? It seems the travel logistics are pretty dire. One supporter, when trying to book a flight from St Kitts to another island was offered one via Gatwick. Hmm! Personal difficulties will keep me in England but things like that make me glad I'm not banging my head on yet another brick wall.
[Mid-March] I hadn't appreciate how little I have watched the men's game. or kept up with the machinations of the governing bodies, until I was informed there is a move towards cropping the 50-over format to 40-over. I have to admit my heart sank. In my opinion this will tend to make the game blander, by which I mean the changes in tempo, tactics and thought the players need to give the game's state at any one moment will become more and more similar. True you will get a little more "crash, bang wallop" which, what I would call the 'non-cricketing' public, like, but much subtlety will be lost.
Much of the attraction in the women's game for me has always been the triumph of skill and technique over brawn, and you only need to compare the 50-over format to the "let's get out on the park, forget the basic skills, close our eyes and swipe" of the T20 to the longer game to see why I am not happy. Oh yes, I know I've exaggerated the T20 backyard cricket situation but I'd suggest changing 50 to 40 is just the thin end of ... well you know what ... on the road I have signposted. Now don't get me wrong, there's a place for T20 all the way from the training of youngsters to the international arena and it can be hugely entertaining to watch. I enjoyed my time at Taunton during the ICC T20 World Cup early rounds no end. But why were the players so adept at it? I put it to you ... sorry, this isn't a courthouse drama ... that had they not honed their skills in the longer format of the game it would have lost much of its appeal. Indeed, I would expect the scoring to be much slower, not something the crowds would expect or desire.
It throws a curved ball to people in my situation too. (The reference to baseball is doubly apt perhaps as a game with far less subtlety than my favourite sport). A problem with any team is how to introduce the next generation of players, give them a go and see who can step up (no - not to the plate) a level. With ten less overs to play this gives the newcomers in the team far less chance to make their mark, the regulars hogging the shorter time available.
One other thought was placed in my head by an ex-England player. Are you old enough to remember when we played 60-over cricket? Did the reduction to 50 make that much difference? I am not sure so am I worrying too much? They also pointed out that maybe 60 to 50 to 40 is just a reflection of the fact that we, as humans, be it players or spectators, simply aren't used to concentrating any more - well not for long periods of time anyway. Instant gratification is everything and, well, we get bored easily.
If the women's game is shortened then we'll have to see how this pans out, but I have to say the first time I drive for three hours to watch 20 overs less cricket I shall consider myself short changed! And my worry is the young and inexperienced in the side who will be be short changed too.
And since I wrote the paragraphs above I have come across the following in one of Jenny Roesler's excellent articles...
The absence of pace bowlers in Wasim's list of notables is attributable to the fact that they could be even stronger, and so have more speed. "They're not genuinely sharp, but they can become sharp if they play a longer version of the game - at least two-day cricket where they can bowl a lot more overs and, by doing that, their bowling muscles will get strengthened and their pace will increase.
and from Belinda Clark...
"I agree with him that [longer cricket] plays a very important role in developing not only bowling skills but the ability to bat for long periods and actually learn the game is done in the longer form of the game.