ESPNcricinfo– As they say in parts of the Caribbean… party done.
The first standalone Women’s T20 is now part of cricket’s history. In some ways an outstanding celebration of women’s place in the sport and, in others, a set of markers showing both how far the game has come and how much further it could – and should – go.
So what worked and where can improvements be made?
Low and slow is never the way to go
Let’s shout it loudly for the people in the back row and then repeat it until their ears beg for blessed relief: if pitches are important to the men’s game, they are 10, 20, make it an even one hundred times more important for women. This simply can’t be emphasised enough and should be the first topic discussed for major women’s tournaments and series.
This competition was a mixed bag: there were decent runs to be made in Guyana and the groundstaff in Saint Lucia were dealt a nasty hand with the heavy rain that caused one washout and a persistently soggy outfield. But it was a shame to see the climax of the tournament play out on such a slow wicket in Antigua. Sure, it challenged teams to adapt and that became a defining factor in the knockout stages. But the Women’s World T20 should showcase the best the players can offer and if that is a series of paddles, sweeps and nudges for singles it’s in trouble.
We know that’s not the case though. Pace with the ball and off the bat encourages and enables more power-hitting and exciting play. There will always be plenty of room for spinners in the women’s game and this isn’t an argument against varied pitches in general. But this is a T20 tournament. Fans want to see Deandra Dottin smash a 30-ball 50 or the sublime strength of Ashleigh Gardner. They also want to see what Shabnim Ismail and Ellyse Perry can do if they have some helpful wickets to work on. How about we give them some?
Do the hokey pokey
Okay so sometimes the pitches may not be helpful to batters. In those cases why not bring the boundaries in a touch? No one wants to see women’s cricket played in the space of a bread plate but if the pitches are slow they could, conceivably, be brought in from the maximum 65 metres to something that encourages batsmen to go over the top. The officials did bring the boundaries in at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground because of the wet outfield but perhaps this flexibility could be applied more generously. If you know a venue is going to be slow, bring the boundaries in. If it’s going to be quick, push the boundaries out. You can shake them all about if you want but there could at least be some balancing measures to even up the contest.
The ICC used Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Darren Sammy and Sir Vivian Richards as ambassadors in their native countries of Guyana, Saint Lucia and Antigua respectively, and each former player was instrumental in stirring up interest and support through media appearances and appeals to fans. The sight of Sammy cheering on West Indies from his box in the ground that bears his name, or that of Sir Viv and Andy Roberts offering advice and support to the West Indies at Coolidge Cricket Ground was inspiring and helped connect the local women’s team to the legendary teams of the past. On top of that, a social media campaign based around the idea that jerseys have no boundaries gained international traction, no doubt helped by the fact it was kicked off by Virat Kohli.
Mind The Gap
The 2017 World Cup in England showed a women’s tournament could hold its own and the West Indies experience confirmed it. This tournament had a distinct personality; the kind you’d invite to any party. For the first time every match of a women’s ICC event was broadcast on television. The attendances, local media coverage, marketing, social media, and general atmosphere were all outstanding (A small caveat: it was a shame to see so few journalists representing major media outlets from the leading countries). The World T20 captured the Caribbean imagination, helped largely by the joyful performances by West Indies themselves. An impressive 10% of the populations of Saint Lucia and Antigua attended matches and the irresistibly catchy official anthem by Patrice Roberts and Shenseea, Watch This, could be heard everywhere you turned. And if it inspires a new generation of West Indies fans to fall in love with cricket again, it deserves to be hailed a success for that alone.