All to play for
Women's cricket this year proved less an opportunity for review, more a preview of the future. The biggest news came just in time for Christmas, and what a present. The women are to have their own World Twenty20 alongside the men's in 2009, pending budget approval, which could pave the way for some much-needed exposure and massive sponsorship opportunities.
The women's game, then, will use next year much as they did this year, as World Cup preparation. Only, now they have two tournaments to prepare for in 2009, with the 50-over version early in New South Wales, then on to England for the short jab of excitement.
If this year is anything to go by, Australia will be pretty confident of retaining the 50-over cup and being the inaugural winners of the Twenty20. While they echoed their men in shedding their old players and their coach (Mark Sorrell going to South Australia men, Lisa Keightley coming in), underneath they proved polished, cold-hearted, and possessed of a familiar bite, retaining the Rose Bowl and snapping up the Quadrangular series in India. And such is their strength in depth that, for example, there is healthy competition for the fast bowler's spot vacated by Cathryn Fitzpatrick, in Emma Sampson and dual international Ellyse Perry, who also plays football.
Unlike the men, though, their captain couldn't hang on to the ICC Player of the Year award, which was claimed by Jhulan Goswami for her feats the previous year, which included helping India win their first Test on England soil; this year, though, India came fourth in the Quadrangular.
Off the pitch, the game was affected by politics and the ICC merger, in good ways as well as bad. Sometimes the two were linked, as when West Indies stared at extinction. The financially dire WICB was saddled with a step-sister it had no feelings for and tried to shun. Even their one rock - automatic qualification for the women's World Cup - looked like crumbling to powder. It still could: they need to fulfill a quota of games to be eligible for the 2009 tournament. The talent remains, though.
Being part of the ICC now means that all teams must play Tests - which led to the farce of Netherlands' crumpling in their one-off, and first-ever, Test against South Africa - although both teams enjoyed the experience. New Zealand are happy to eschew Test status, however, and continued to concentrate on one-dayers and Twenty20s. With a series win in England, they looked handy as the build-up towards the World Cup continues.
However, the eight teams still bidding for the two remaining places were denied their chance this year, as politics locked them out. With Pakistan unsafe, the qualifiers scheduled for the end of November were rightly postponed, leaving Ireland and Zimbabwe in particular, both of whom were on a roll, frustrated, as they were tournament-ready; all their players have had to reschedule work and study plans. Zimbabwe - led by Julia Chibhabha, Chamu's sister - had hoped to build on the momentum of winning their first matches in the Africa qualifiers, while Ireland had also put in handy performances in Europe over the summer. The qualifiers will have to be played before the end of May, although where and when remains unanswered.
|Off the pitch, the game was affected by politics and the ICC merger, in good ways as well as bad. Sometimes the two were linked, as when West Indies stared at extinction. The financially dire WICB was saddled with a step-sister it had no feelings for and tried to shun|
The ICC merger's positives, however, far outweigh the negatives. Bangladesh have followed in their Indian sisters' footsteps, and have begun to get financial rewards. The Asian Cricket Council brought out their first tournament, and there was progress, too, in the Americas, with Canada winning the inaugural Americas Women's Championship title against such teams as Bermuda and the developing Argentina.
And, of course, the biggest filip of all was the news of the Women's World Twenty20, which could turn the ICC into the fairy godmother for the Cinderellas of cricket.
Rookie of the Year
Trinidad and Tobago's batsman Amanda Samaroo, who set the Americas tournament alight, is certainly one for West Indies' future (whatever it may hold), giving them hope in the general gloom.
Australia's Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who is now Victoria's coach, and England's vice-captain Laura Newton, who is to continue her studies in biomechanics.
The Twenty20 between England and New Zealand at Bath. Perfect entertainment in a perfect environment: intimate, accessible, and family-friendly.
Shared between West Indies' worries and the postponement of the World Cup qualifiers.
What does 2008 hold?
Hopefully the World Cup qualifiers, sometime before May, and more preparations for the 2009 world tournaments for the big girls, and more adjustments to international cricket for the rookies.
Jenny Thompson is an assistant editor at Cricinfo