The inaugural International Cricket Council (ICC) women’s championship which starts in August offers more opportunities for women cricketers from the leading eight countries-Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies.
Each of the teams would play each other in three One Day Internationals (ODI’s) matches either home or away and points would be awarded for each result. The championship will come to an end in 2016, with the top four teams qualifying for the 2017 World Cup in England and the other four teams will participate in a qualifier system to qualify for the World Cup.
According to Clare Connor, chair of the ICC women’s committee, “The ICC Women's Championship is an exciting new initiative that represents a significant step in the continued development of women's cricket. The multi-year structure provides regular playing opportunities for the leading women's teams, as well as clear context around bi-lateral series that provides a competitive pathway into the ICC Women's World Cup 2017.”
The West Indies women start their championship campaign by hosting New Zealand in August. In total the West Indies are scheduled to play seven bilateral series and 21 games over the two year period. Now that the ICC is making a concerted effort to further promote the development of women’s cricket, the onus is on the WICB to do the same for the West Indies. The WICB who is responsible for the development of women’s cricket in the region have to be more proactive in their approach.
There is urgent need for the WICB to engage in several initiatives to ensure that women’s cricket is given the impetus that it requires to develop. The WICB has to demonstrate its intent by instructing its territorial boards to invest in the development of women’s cricket in the same manner as they do for males. This should translate into the establishment and adoption of a universal development plan for women’s cricket across the region. This would allow for consistency in the programmes as well as ensure that no territory is left behind.
The development plan should comprise of several key initiatives. It is vital that cricket be developed at the primary and secondary school level as it done for boys. The same strategy that is used to promote school cricket for boys could be used for girls. However, it may also require some tweaking to take into account cultural and gender dynamics as it relates to females and sports. This is important to encourage participation and develop a cricketing culture among school girls.
Age group cricket has to be promoted as is done for boys. Therefore, girls under 15, 17 and 19 competitions should be established just as it exists for males. This will allow for players from across the region participating in regional competitions. A case in point, the recently concluded ‘regional’ under 19 competition in Trinidad and Tobago comprised of only four (4) regional teams (T&T, Barbados, St Lucia, Guyana and a local Board XI). Promotion and coverage should also be equitable. For instance, the regional Under 17 for boys being played in Tobago is receiving coverage on the WICB twitter and Facebook page, however, the same could not have been said for the girl’s under 19 competition that was being played at the same time in Trinidad!
Regional territorial boards have to promote the establishment of leagues which can be connected to school cricket programmes. This will allow for continuity of the programmes as well as provide a greater pool of players to select all age group and national teams. It should also allow for higher standards of play and greater competition within and between each regional teams.
Proper infrastructure has to be provided for the women’s game to develop in the region. Efforts have to be undertaken to ensure that women’s cricket is not sideline but treated as equals with reference to access to facilities. Furthermore, more women have to be encouraged to get involved in coaching and administration of cricket.
Locally it will be nice to see that the National Gas Company (NGC) T20 cricket festival be extended to incorporate local women teams. I am sure the local women cricketers will welcome being part of the NGC cricket festival and playing for state funds. As the male teams do, the female teams can also invite regional players to ensure that the standard of play is maintained at a high level. Sports is definitely a good way to ensure that state funds are shared equitably especially as it relates to gender!
There is no denial that women’s cricket have come a long way locally and regionally, but it will be foolhardy to think enough is being done strategically to develop the women’s game. The time to act is now WICB and its territorial boards!