Rising crowds and big hitters put World Cup on fans’ agenda

Sport

Suzie_BatesThe women’s cricket World Cup, currently taking place in India, features eight teams, each competing for the title which will be contested on Sunday at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium. The event, which should be the premier showcase of the women’s game, has not been without its problems. The final was moved at late notice from Mumbai’s premier cricket stadium to make way for a men’s state game, while the tournament’s organisers have done a poor job of publicising it locally. India’s dismal group stage elimination hardly enhanced its popularity.

The tournament has however received much more coverage in the UK. It has been extensively covered by the BBC, with every England match broadcast live on Test Match Special. Highlights have also been shown on Sky Sports, though admittedly largely in the graveyard slots of the schedules.

The most notable individual achievement of the tournament so far has been England captain Charlotte Edwards surpassing Australian Belinda Clark’s record to become the all time leading runs scorer in women’s one-day cricket. This is an enormous achievement as given the paucity of Test matches in the women’s game, one-day cricket is, for Edwards, the pinnacle of the sport. For her to score the volume of runs she has, nearly 5,000, is even more impressive given the lower scoring rates and consequently lower totals of the women’s game.

Indeed slower scoring rates have been considered a barrier to the sport’s popularity, as even in the World Cup teams have often struggle to break 200, a figure that would be considered a poor score in men’s one-day cricket, especially in the batting-friendly subcontinent. Such a view is however myopic in the extreme, as the preponderance of low scores can no doubt be partly attributed to the skill and variety of the bowling on offer in the women’s game. England’s attack alone boasts world-class quicks in Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, a wily slow left-armer in Holly Colvin and an extremely talented off-spinner in Danielle Wyatt.

Furthermore, low scores can often lead to tight games, which produce the tension spectators crave. If the team batting first racks up an insurmountable score, matches can become devoid of competition; by contrast, games in which every run counts and the bowling side needs to attack ultimately provide a much more satisfying experience for the spectator.

Signs that the women’s game is moving on and developing have also come in some notable innings of sustained clean hitting. Perhaps the most outstanding individual innings of the World Cup have been produced by the West Indian Stafanie Taylor, who smashed a superb 171 off just 137 balls. In the same innings, against Sri Lanka, Deandra Dottin hit a 50 off just 20 balls, setting a new record for the quickest international half-century in women’s cricket. With Taylor and Dottin both 21 years old, West Indian cricket in particular looks to be heading towards a bright future.

The chance to further grow the women’s game in India has perhaps been squandered by poor management and ill-considered scheduling. However, the fact that the tournament has enjoyed an increased profile internationally will hopefully help to boost participation rates amongst women worldwide. For women who want to play cricket in England, a chronic lack of cricket clubs, compared with the men’s game, constitute a major obstacle. If the World Cup and the excellent cricket that has been played can encourage clubs to look at developing women’s sides, then despite its problems it will have left a wonderful legacy.

PHOTO/langthanonline