February 10, 2014

Double headers are the future, but they stink

Playing women's matches before men's is good in principle, but they end up reducing the women's game to a sideshow

Hurry up and get off the field, ladies © Getty Images

Since the pioneering World Twenty20 in 2009, when the men's and women's tournaments took place in conjunction for the first time, T20 double headers have been hailed as one of the best things to have ever happened to women's cricket, and for good reason.

Scheduling a women's match directly prior to a men's match has undoubtedly meant larger audiences for women's cricket, and attracted new fans to the sport. And the exposure the women's game has received - with the prospect of televising two matches back to back a far more financially attractive one for the TV companies - has also increased as a result.

The benefits are obvious. But here is the thing: if you have ever doubted the continuing overwhelming disparity between men's and women's cricket, go and cover a double header. I reckon it'd be a pretty eye-opening experience. It was for me.

Here is what will happen, based on my experience of the three T20s which were played recently in Australia against England, as part of the women's Ashes series:

1. Despite the fact that women's international over rates are vastly superior to those of their male counterparts, the umpires will repeatedly tell the players to ensure that they "hurry up" their overs. If they don't finish in time, the "main event" might just start a little bit delayed. And we can't have that, can we?

2. When the women's match starts, there will be next to no one in the press box. Halfway through, a load of journalists will trickle in, because they have been asked to cover the women's game as well as the men's. But what does it matter if you miss half of one of the games you are supposed to be writing about?

3. As usual, free food will be served in the press box to keep the hungry journalists happy. During double headers, though, food is brought in in between the matches, and there will be a group who will complain that fewer delicious treats are available because of the extra journalists who turned up to cover the women's game. Oops.

4. When the women's game ends, the players will have to get off the pitch as quickly as they possibly can, to have ice baths that aren't quite long enough, so that they can vacate the dressing rooms. Their belongings will be unceremoniously dragged out to make way for the men, and sometimes the players themselves won't quite know where their own kit has disappeared to.

5. Whoever is doing the scheduling for Cricket Australia will fail to realise that a two-hour gap between the end of the women's match and the start of the men's will completely undermine the concept of getting people in the ground early to watch the women's game.

6. At least some of the journalists who have been sent to cover the women's match as well as the men's will turn up with no knowledge of its context, and won't have bothered to do any research. This will become obvious in the post-match press conference, when the same group will be unable to recognise Charlotte Edwards, who happens to be the only England captain to have won the Ashes this winter.

7. Edwards will make 92 not out, the highest score of any cricketer, male or female, in a T20I in Australia this winter, in her Ashes-winning innings for England. But during the post-match press conference in the gym at Bellerive, in which we are trying to listen to Edwards reflect on the series win, there will be a constant background of noise and chatter as those from the men's set-up drag equipment in and out, seemingly as loudly as they possibly can. Perhaps Edwards is used to it by now, or perhaps she is too happy to notice, but I will fume inwardly and helplessly the whole way through.

8. England Women will win the Ashes for only the third time ever in Australia, but (as Alison Mitchell pointed out on Twitter) there will be no ticker tape or champagne for them in the post-match celebrations: there is another match about to be played, and lost, by an England side who are coming to the end of their most miserable tour in the history of time. And that, of course, takes priority.

Those are the realities of T20 double headers. From the perspective of that rare cricket journalist who had covered the whole of the rest of the women's tour before the T20s happened, I can tell you this: they stink.

Double headers are clearly the future for international women's T20 cricket, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing - I'm not stupid. But the way things stand, they also have the potential to take the edge off a wonderful series victory, and that makes me sad.

Perhaps, if by some miracle you're a men's cricket journalist or someone who officiates in double headers and you're reading this, in future you could treat the women's teams with the respect they deserve, and not just as an insignificant sideshow. That's all.

Raf Nicholson is a PhD student, an England supporter, a feminist, and fanatical about women's cricket. She tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on February 16, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    sifter, watch it again. your reasoning is as poor as your point

  • Daniel on February 12, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    @Konnan: You are so wrong it hurts. The level these games were played at was far beyond what you suggest. The leading players in the Women's game are better technical players. Stronger players, particularly those from countries without a prevalence of coaching at junior levels tend to muscle the ball around. The women don't do that. The batters find the gaps with superior skill. The bowlers can't intimidate with speed, so have better skills in seam, spin, and to a lesser degree swing. That is what I like watching in the women's game. I like seeing players succeed because of their time spent on the cricket field rather than in the gym.

  • Dummy4 on February 11, 2014, 8:03 GMT

    I think it is all about quality and level of the game being played. It is somewhat similar to, say, scheduling the final of the WCL Division 5 just before the World Cup final (the former does not even get TV coverage) -- although I might be unfairly a little to unkind to the teams playing WCL Div 5 with this comparison. Or to take a similar scenario, U17 World Cup final followed by the men's final. It would, somehow, just not be right to give them equal significance.

  • David on February 11, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    @James Snow - which interview? Where Perry and Lanning were on the cricket show? don't see how it was any more humiliating to Ellyse than it was Michael Vaughan who was light heartedly jibed at for his dancing. If the girls are embarrassed by modeling, they shouldn't be doing it in the first place! Slats has had no problem pointing out similar things in the past eg. Australian male cricketers 'sexy' calendar of a few years back. That year they even asked the women at the AB medal who the sexiest cricketer was (Simon Katich won the popular vote). Put the shoe on the other foot, I doubt the women would strip for a calendar to start with, and if Mark Nicholas stood up at the AB medal and asked who the sexiest female cricketer was, he'd get howled out of town!

    Anyway, good points Raf - most of us don't think about it. Although you can't have both a shorter gap between matches AND avoid being prematurely herded out of the dressing rooms. One must be suffered I would imagine.

  • John on February 10, 2014, 23:49 GMT

    Well said, Raf. Even though the women's series was far more interesting than the men's (at least in my opinion) the coverage was barely adequate. Living in western Canada, I was denied computer access to Sky Sports television coverage of the T20s. I couldn't even listen to BBC Sports Live because of "broadcast restrictions". Thanks to CA for providing live video streaming on their website of the Test match and the ODIs, and live audio for the T20s. If the ICC want to promote women's cricket then lift the broadcast restrictions so that we out in the boondocks have a chance to watch (or at least listen to) the games.

  • nalin on February 10, 2014, 13:20 GMT

    INXS was the support act for Adam Ant and ended outperforming them and got the publicity. If the women's T20 world cup is played in conjunction with men's T20 and the matches are matched with potential TV coverage then there is maximum exposure to showcase what it's worth.

  • Daniel on February 10, 2014, 13:14 GMT

    Not only was there a gap of hours between the women's and men's matches in Sydney, but there were no passouts from the ground. So, you're stuck in the ground for hours whilst little happens. At least there was the Ashes ceremony. Gates opened on 15 minutes before the women's game started, and the only half the stadium was open, so we couldn't get to the seats we'd paid for until half way through. Also, the boundaries for the women's game were too short! Apparently there is some ICC regulation that says when both play on the same field the women's boundary has to be 10 m shorter. The smaller ball goes further anyway, it's unnecessary. Not only that, but a 2 was just about impossible. I like watching women's cricket because they place the ball better rather than just blasting it (I liked watching Bevan for the same reason), but without a big enough field to run twos that skill is taken out of the game!

  • Android on February 10, 2014, 13:02 GMT

    why doesn't cricket just become unisex, there are definitely women who could compete in the men's competition, it's not about strength so where's the problem

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    My best day at Lord's is for the women's only game.The women's game has its own followers. You meet like minded (male & female) fans, players and coaches who's interest is women's game centric and others who like all forms of cricket. Double Headers increase exposure but exclude some of the above. Trialing in the county game holds similar concerns.

  • David on February 10, 2014, 11:24 GMT

    Good article. People always say double headers are good as they "raise awareness" of the women's game, but wasn't the best crowd for a women's match last year at Chelmsford for a stand alone T20? There seemed to be a capacity crowd for that match.

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