2008 Diary
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2008 Diary

A Ramble on Women's Cricket
 - with diversions -

This diary will be updated periodically throughout the year.

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[September 25]
When I first started typing these pages as the year went along, rather than in a lump after the season's conclusion, I never realised what an impossible task I had taken on. The result is that 12 ODIs have rattled by (or been rained off!) and several T20s since I last typed; not exactly an up-to-date analysis or ramble on the year! The small type caption in the blue box above may make you wonder if I understand the meaning of the word "periodically".
Well it has all gone by in a flash and during the course of those weeks England have surpassed their record for the longest run of undefeated games - not 'wins' you'll note since the weather (and maybe the opposition) interfered, or could have interfered, with that.
I had the chance to take my first look at the West Indies team, who I had missed in the World Cup in 2005 as rain had completely washed out the England fixture then, although I did see them in extremely smart suits at the airport awaiting a flight home. A huge guy in front of me in the queue asked me if I knew who they were and, having told him, he promptly got on his mobile to tell someone he was "at the airport with the West Indies team".
This time I watched their fielding an bowling, and while I felt confident in an England victory it looked like it would not be a walkover. Rain, of course followed. The following day's play, which I was not able to watch, must have left them reeling and the general view seemed to be "their batting is not up to their fielding and bowling". Perhaps this is a little unkind. The weather was dire and the temperature not exactly West Indian. Let's reserve judgment on what their bats can do until March next year.
And next came South Africa. I have muttered on here about the quota (euphemistically called a 'target') before and so there seems little point in doing so again, except to say that I have no idea on this occasion whether the team they brought was indeed the best the country can produce or not. While this "target" remains it will always be thus. They had lost the talents of one of the world's finest batsmen in Johmari Logtenberg to another sport, and that, obviously was never going to help their cause.
[Johmari Logtenberg]
Johmari Logtenberg
A few of the  names were familiar to me and I was well aware they had two useful bowlers in Ashlyn Kilowan and Alicia Smith and that captain Cri-Zelda Brits had plenty of experience of English conditions. During the course of the series other names were to become more familiar and I especially enjoyed Tricia Chetty's keeping, a player who coped marvellously with some very poor returns from fielders which she tidied up so neatly the fielders misdemeanors were often far less apparent. I also had to admire Sunette Loubser who had to suffer her name wrongly spelt in the programme and pronounced more ways than you would think possible for such an apparently simple combination of letters, although it was her bowling that impressed me. She does not have what one could call a classic bowling action but it can be very effective and in the end that's what counts! Her attitude to the game could also be a lesson to others in how to lose matches and hold your head up! I hope to see both Loubser and Chetty in March at the World Cup.
Brits showed how a losing captain should appear at post match interviews. It's a chore *every* captain has to do from time to time so learn to do it well. Their cause might have been helped if they had had an idea of the batting order and indeed what their 'starting line-up' should be. It all seemed very experimental and maybe, with quite a number of inexperienced players, that's the way it had to be. I always hope a team like that of 1997 will appear again and England will have to watch their backs. The captain of that series watched this one and it must have been a tough time for her. I think it worth stating yet again on this site that women's cricket desperately needs other sides to join the top four with a view to taking matches from them if only now and again. South Africa, along with Sri Lanka, have looked from time to time as if they might just make it, but it's yet to happen. Will any of the emerging nations do it? It'll be a few years away but I am intrigued to see what the likes of Bangladesh for instance can accomplish if the sport becomes well established there.
And then there was India. Although there were a few 'new' players, many of this side had toured here before and I was looking forward to seeing the return of Neetu David after her short retirement. If ever a series did not live up to expectations this was it. As the world's ranked number two (yes, I know the rankings are nearly as old as I am!), a fight could have been expected but established Indian players failed to come to the party and the newcomers can hardly be blamed if their seniors didn't show the way. Goswami is a genuine 'tryer' but simply didn't seem to be able to find the rhythm, and hence the pace, she had done on previous tours and the dampness of the summer meant the bounce was not so threatening
Most of the established batsmen like Kala or Naik could find no consistency. Raj made a number of reasonable scores in her usual classy style but a number of supporters (of the England camp) muttered she was taking so long she was 'batting for herself and not the team'. At the boundary's edge I was inclined to agree but looking back through the scoresheets I am left wondering if, had she succumbed early, the remaining batting order could have mounted a reasonable score. If there was one player I had to admire it was Jaya Sharma who managed to play herself out of a terrible run of form, and who threw herself around the boundary like a thing possessed. At Taunton I was right on the boundary where her frantic efforts saved a number of runs and I kept an eye after the cameras had moved on following her injury. There's no doubt in my mind that continuing was quite a painful business but despite continued advice from the umpire to find a substitute she would not give in.
At Arundel the visitors finally came out fighting. I don't know what stirred them but I wish it had earlier. It was thus even more annoying when the weather put paid to the day-night match at Hove as England might have had to really sweat for the only time that summer. The Blue Lions made the best of Hove and Martin Greenway (Lydia's dad ... sorry Martin) was presented with a red and white striped scarf. No, I won't tell you why ... ask a member of the supporters' club... I must take the opportunity to thank all those who contributed to the feast, especially Roma Guha for some fine Indian food, and to the owners of the marquis who unknowingly supplied shelter in the worst of the weather.

[Martin Greenway]
Martin Greenway

The Blue Lions - England supporters party (picture courtesy Helen Taylor)
Thus the international summer came to a soggy end and, if I had had the task of picking an Indian Player of the Series, it would have to have been Jaya Sharma for the gutsiest play I have seen for some time. I always have to admire those who simply won't give up even when all looks hopeless.

Jaya Sharma
I have one general point to make too that I know has been mentioned many times in the men's game as well. There were occasions (note the plural!) when play could easily have started again earlier after a rain break, or even started earlier in the day, but an over cautious attitude seems to prevail these days. Much cricket was unnecessarily lost. There is just the consolation that the girls seem to see rather better in the dark than the guys. When will more sensible instructions be given to umpires about conditions of play? I begin to suspect not in my lifetime... with the PC and Health & Safety culture that would probably prefer the sport to be played with tennis balls!

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