2011 Diary

A Ramble on Women's Cricket
 - with diversions -

This diary will be updated periodically throughout the year.

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Does Women's sport need better hair days?

For a while at the start of 2011 I used this link on the home page. I wonder how many clicking it and reading the revealed article thought it was a reflection of my views. Actually it left me undecided about how I felt on this matter.
My first reaction was scorn as I imagine it was for many others. Surely the women's talent alone should be sufficient to bring in the crowds. If it wasn't then maybe they didn't deserve the crowds anyway. But then I found myself wondering if this wasn't really about marketing rather than the players on the day. Take a look at the posters produced by the various cricket boards. I'd best tread carefully here, but do you notice a pattern. I think I do.
At first this seemed to be about ensuring the sport looked multi-racial and I was brave enough once to ask a player if she minded being a 'token'. To my surprise she was strongly in favour. The reply went something like ... "If it'll encourage more kids from a similar background to play, then great!"
There's obviously more to this than is immediately apparent.
Once again I decided to take my camera to a different sport. This time it was tag rugby.
[tag rugby]
This sport is so fast and furious I suggest you give up watching the macho version of the game and try this much more exciting version. It challenged my photo skills in completely new ways.
Some years ago I tried my hand at hockey, having arrived at a ground intending to photograph a  cricket match and finding a women's international hockey match taking place at the same venue. I found the speed of the sport quite a challenge. Below is one of the few presentable shots.

[England v Australia, Hockey, 2006]

England take on Australia in 2006
I get annoyed when people call cricket slow - just stand 22 yards away from Brett Lee (or Katherine Brunt for that matter) and see how slow you find it! From a photographer's viewpoint though cricket has the advantage that much of the action is centered around the same places on the pitch. This is why pictures of fielders flying horizontally through the air attempting a catch are relatively rare, except perhaps for slip fielders. Contrary to popular belief pictures of other catches are extremely boring.
Firstly the temptation of the cameraman is to get some 'safe' shots in the locker and even then to concentrate on the area where most of the action is likely to be. Also the advent of cameras that will focus at lightening speed is relatively recent, and they remain expensive. It is probably also necessary for the camera to fire at a high burst speed (perhaps 10 frames per second) to give you a reasonably high chance of success.  All this stretches the budget. I have cautiously peered into professional photographers' bags. It is not uncommon to see anything from £15,000 to £25,000 worth of kit there. But you must remember this is the tools with which he earns his living and as such is far from an unreasonable expense. The printing presses which earn mine are many times that cost. I wonder how many in the crowd realise those 'dinner plate' lenses alone will set you back anything from £3,000 to £8,000.
[April -just]
You'll have noticed I have banged on about it before. You know - this T20 stuff. In the last twenty four hours two different events half a world apart have reinforced my opinions - if indeed they needed reinforcing. One was watching one of the highest quality limited overs you're ever likely to see and which should have earned its maker the Player of the Match Award. You can probably guess I am talking about the World Cup Final (men's) and Mahela Jayawardene. It's many a  year since I enjoyed an innings of such artistry and one made in such a hot-house situation. With 90+% of the crowd egging on the other side, and only half-hearted supported from your team mates, Jaywardene heeded his wife's instructions when half way through his knock. You needed no lip reading skills to understand the "Stay there" and the hand gestures that accompanied it. Mahela obliged and if you missed his knock then you'll have to wait many a year to see one of equal quality.
And where did Jaywardene learn his skills. No, I don't mean geographically, although if at home in Sri Lanka then the beauty of that island would not have been a hardship. I mean in what form of cricket. I don't think I need to say more.
And hot on the heels of an innings I'll remember for many a year, comes a story from a small town in New Zealand. Since the link may be temporary, I'll explain that a cricket coach has decided to give up coaching the girls' team there. His explanation ... "Hensman said New Zealand Cricket's move to turn the 40-over national competition to a T20 one was ill conceived.

"I've got good cricketers who I have taught good technique to over the years and all that now just goes out of the door with Twenty20 cricket.

"I'm worried about the future of women's club cricket."
He is not alone.
He's off again! Sorry, but I can't resist quoting yet another senior player stressing how important the 'long' form of the game is. This time it's Mithali Raj and she'd like to see 2-day cricket become a regular feature of the women's game. All the time they are amateurs (despite the English girls joining the cricketers' trade union) I can't see how they could be fitted in to an already loaded schedule. Major surgery could do it but the 50 over format should be long enough to develop players. As Mithali is undoubtedly India's leading batsman I feel heartened my thoughts are shared by yet another top player who knows the game far better than I do.
[Chris Lee photographs Mithali Raj]
Chris Lee photographs Mithali with yet another
Player of the Match Award at Taunton in 2008
Following on from ... To bat or not to bat?
But the question is ...  are you therefore a 'batter'?
Well, no, and here's why.
  • There's a perfectly good word already - it's batsman - and there's a very good (and as it happens feminist) reason for using that one. 'Batswoman' just makes me cringe.
  • The 'word' is just plain ugly - I have not been able to find a more eloquent way of stating that ...
  • It was introduced into cricket by an Australian (sorry all you Aussies but we Brits are allegedly the custodians of the game, even if from time to time you show us how it can be played. Steve Waugh is usually credited with the first use in this sport.)
  • Batter has a perfectly acceptable meaning already - it goes around fish - and makes (surprise, surprise) batter puddings.
  • And there's space here for anyone who can add to this list. Feel free to contribute ....
Please let's stop trying to be PC! It diminishes the sport, gives your opponents a target to aim at, and is frankly embarrassing. If you consider yourself the equal of a man - then don't apologise for your gender.
And just to warn you ... I make no apology for repeating this message from time to time.

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