ICC Women's World Cup 2013 January 30, 2013

Women chart their own route

  shares 21

After a day's play on England's tours to Australia or New Zealand, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint would take the score sheets, go to her hotel, compose a match report and dictate it over the phone to the Daily Telegraph's office in London. Nothing out of the ordinary for a touring reporter in the 1960s and 70s. Except that Heyhoe-Flint was also England Women's captain. She knew that no publicity meant no sponsorship, and no sponsorship was bad for any sport, particularly one such as women's cricket, forever hamstrung by comparison to its male counterpart. But Heyhoe-Flint's toil bore fruit when businessman Jack Hayward helped sponsor the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1973, a couple of years before the men's event.

It has been forty years since then. The ICC-backed tenth edition of the Women's World Cup begins tomorrow in Mumbai - and later in Cuttack - when India take on West Indies under lights at the historic Brabourne Stadium. The game will be live on television. The teams are staying in a luxury landmark hotel, accompanied by a variety of support staff. Several journalists are chasing players for interviews. Forget 1973, even in the 1997 edition, held in India, the players themselves had to move the sightscreen. The world of women's cricket today is unrecognisable from Heyhoe-Flint's struggle to bring it some attention. Or is it?

'David Warner would have hit that one for six.' 'With such shortened boundaries, even I can hit more sixes.' 'Not one six so far in the game? How boring!' 'I would have stopped that four in my sleep.' These are some of the typical reactions from fans and even cricket journalists to the women's game. To one's mind, cricket has to be the only game where the women's side of the game is seen consistently through the prism of the men's version. Tennis never paid scant attention to Victoria Azarenka's Australian Open win because she didn't have to beat Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.

On the eve of India's tournament opener against West Indies, Mithali Raj, India Women's captain, was asked whether any of the senior Indian male players had given inputs and what difference would it make to her if any of them turned up to watch. Imagine MS Dhoni being asked the reverse.

Raj believes there is no escaping from the "comparisons" which "are bound to happen because we play the same sport." However, she reminds it is not exactly comparing apples to apples. "People should realise that at the end of the day, it is different sexes," Raj said. "And there is one big issue about physical ability. When it comes to the mind game or the technique, I think everybody would agree that we are on par with them. [The rest] is nature. We can't really do much about it." It is something people would do well to keep in mind over the next three weeks when changing channels in disappointment after watching a few deliveries of a women's game, because it doesn't confirm to what they have to come to believe, or have been led to believe, is "entertaining cricket".

Raj says the advent of Twenty20 and the Indian Premier League has further skewed the balance against women when it comes to perceptions. "The power point has come into the picture with the IPL. But otherwise if you see the one-dayers and the Tests I am sure earlier it was more of technique. Basically it is T20 which is more entertaining and when you see those soaring sixes… with the inception of T20, things have definitely changed."

Things haven't been too much better when it comes to administration. One of only two stadiums from where matches were to be broadcast on television, Wankhede Stadium, was lost to the local association's demand of having their team play the Ranji Trophy final there. As telling as the muted opposition to and criticism of the demand was the fact that it was actually made in the first place. Whoever heard of a marquee World Cup venue being lost to a domestic final? Not in the men's game anyway.

So what do these women have to offer us that we have so far refused to warm up to? "It is always curiosity that pulls people to come and watch women's cricket and when they do, they always acknowledge the elegance of the strokeplay and the kind of effort put in by the players," Raj says.

"I must admit I have seen some of the most amazing shots played by the West Indies players. I am sure you will get to see that during the tournament. They definitely match the men's standard."

"Deandra Dottin [who holds the record for the fastest T20I hundred, across the men's and women's games] would definitely clear the boundary," adds Charlotte Edwards, the England Women captain.

Since most of them can't resort to power like the men do, timing, and the resulting elegance, is a given in the women's game. Raj is one of the best examples of grace with a bat in hand. Because it is not easy to blast your way out of trouble, most women batsmen have very fine techniques. There is also cultured hitting that is making its way into the women's game, with the likes of Australia and England leading the way. Women spinners still actually flight the ball generously in one-dayers, and they are met with dancing batsmen who drive such deliveries through the covers with high elbows and full followthroughs. The fielders sprint and dive as well as their bodies allow them to.

Starting tomorrow, the cricketing world has another chance to watch all this, and appreciate it for what it is, women playing international cricket. And leave the comparisons with the men out.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • G-Wyll on January 31, 2013, 4:47 GMT

    With the amount of money generated by the ICC, how on earth can the womens game still be so invisible? Good solid marketing and TV coverage could lift the sports profile immensely. If anything, what womens cricket needs is to be linked closer to the mens game, maybe with combined tours so that you see the best of both genders touring another country. I'm sure any touring fans would go to both mens and womens games if they could. And if the mens team wasn't performing well, i'm sure the spotlight would soon shift towards the womens team. One way or another, the womens game needs better marketing.

  • azaro on January 31, 2013, 2:47 GMT

    We have been fortunate to host women's international cricket in St Kitts now for a few years and i can assure those of you that have not seen it that it is exciting and outstanding in every way. Frankly the West Indies women draw better crowds than the men because the quality of cricket overall is actually better.

    Yes the pace of the seamers is never going to emulate Finn or Steyn although one or two are close to some of the medium-fast men and there are not so many big hitters although, as was stated in the article, Deandra Dottin can hit the ball as far as any man. However, the timing and stroke play is excellent just watch Mithali Raj bat - apart from looking like Tendulkar when she drives she has all the timing of a Colin Cowdrey! And the fielding level is incredible and very athletic; the throwing consistently more accurate than the men too. Keep an open mind, it is a joy to watch.

  • Nampally on January 31, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    There are bound to be differences in the way Men & Women play any sport. Because of stronger physical build, Men are expected to be faster & stronger than Women. Even amongst men, genetics play a huge role in speed & strength. While WI produce the best sprinters, Indian Men cannot match WI in speed. So genetics is a third factor in some of the physical attributes. People of all nations have to accept the fact that levels expected of Men & women are different. In the very first match between India & WI, Indian openers put up a great show followed by high S/R from the next 2 bats. WI showed their strength via Dottin's powerful hitting which was a treat to watch. Indian bowling was good with all 3 seamers doing well as well as their spinner Sultana It was a match on par with Men's ODI. 286 for 6 is a huge total & so was the response from WI of 179. How many Men's ODI's match these scores? Even in the recent India Vs. England ODI series, England were out for <160 twice, in losing cause!.

  • wmathew on January 31, 2013, 16:30 GMT

    Women don't have the quality of the Men's game but they want equality i don't get it. If their game was up to par or close then their clamoring for equality in pay might have gone down well. Until the men want to watch anything other than skin that women will display in some sports it will remain. Certainly not equal but Women's sports acceptable. It ranks when they think they should get equal pay for inferior game, even tennis they are playing 3 sets why?. in many tournaments where the pay is equal they should play 5 sets if that is what it is. it should be equal in all respects if pay is equal.Let them play with men where there is no contact between the players. when you demand something then you should have to show something.

  • on January 31, 2013, 16:20 GMT

    If India is so insecure that no hotel is available for Pakistan players then ICC should not ve given the worldcup to them..... even though venue is changed but yet such disappointing thing to happen..............

  • mast_zeeshan on January 31, 2013, 13:51 GMT

    Plz Stop comparing MEN and WOMEN cricket. Woman always want to be treated equally and sad fact is they need to produce same quality in order to draw crowd and attention same way. Not to sound rude! But i watched it, it was fun but believe me I could not just keep watching it. There were some good cuts and pulls but due to high standards set by meany leagues and stadium vibes and in field electricity that women game looks slower than a drawing test match.

  • Neutral-11 on January 31, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    Men love speed and power, some men even criticise men's cricket for lack of power and physical part compare to other sports. I feel for women cricket to be popular more women must start taking interest in it.

  • Rohan1210 on January 31, 2013, 12:26 GMT

    This is an absolutely brilliant per4mance by d Indian girls after losing d toss. 284 by d women's team is nt at all an easy total. Superb! All the best 4 d 2nd innings. Hope they depend it n gain a good NRR as well!

  • CricketMaan on January 31, 2013, 12:26 GMT

    'The teams are staying in a luxury landmark hotel,' - try saying that to a Pak fan..amidst politics and madness..a group of women have confied themselves into a stadium and will spend thier time inside it for weeks and hope to win hearts and a world cup. Since 1947 a lot has changed across borders, but some things has simply not changed! Change is constant im told..seems like its not always true!

  • JohnofBurgundy on January 31, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    Apples and Oranges, mens and womens cricket. The womens game is just as good in its own way and will probably produce more close games than the mens world cup did. It depends what you want a few smashed sixes or a tense game going down to the wire. Give me the latter any day.

  • G-Wyll on January 31, 2013, 4:47 GMT

    With the amount of money generated by the ICC, how on earth can the womens game still be so invisible? Good solid marketing and TV coverage could lift the sports profile immensely. If anything, what womens cricket needs is to be linked closer to the mens game, maybe with combined tours so that you see the best of both genders touring another country. I'm sure any touring fans would go to both mens and womens games if they could. And if the mens team wasn't performing well, i'm sure the spotlight would soon shift towards the womens team. One way or another, the womens game needs better marketing.

  • azaro on January 31, 2013, 2:47 GMT

    We have been fortunate to host women's international cricket in St Kitts now for a few years and i can assure those of you that have not seen it that it is exciting and outstanding in every way. Frankly the West Indies women draw better crowds than the men because the quality of cricket overall is actually better.

    Yes the pace of the seamers is never going to emulate Finn or Steyn although one or two are close to some of the medium-fast men and there are not so many big hitters although, as was stated in the article, Deandra Dottin can hit the ball as far as any man. However, the timing and stroke play is excellent just watch Mithali Raj bat - apart from looking like Tendulkar when she drives she has all the timing of a Colin Cowdrey! And the fielding level is incredible and very athletic; the throwing consistently more accurate than the men too. Keep an open mind, it is a joy to watch.

  • Nampally on January 31, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    There are bound to be differences in the way Men & Women play any sport. Because of stronger physical build, Men are expected to be faster & stronger than Women. Even amongst men, genetics play a huge role in speed & strength. While WI produce the best sprinters, Indian Men cannot match WI in speed. So genetics is a third factor in some of the physical attributes. People of all nations have to accept the fact that levels expected of Men & women are different. In the very first match between India & WI, Indian openers put up a great show followed by high S/R from the next 2 bats. WI showed their strength via Dottin's powerful hitting which was a treat to watch. Indian bowling was good with all 3 seamers doing well as well as their spinner Sultana It was a match on par with Men's ODI. 286 for 6 is a huge total & so was the response from WI of 179. How many Men's ODI's match these scores? Even in the recent India Vs. England ODI series, England were out for <160 twice, in losing cause!.

  • wmathew on January 31, 2013, 16:30 GMT

    Women don't have the quality of the Men's game but they want equality i don't get it. If their game was up to par or close then their clamoring for equality in pay might have gone down well. Until the men want to watch anything other than skin that women will display in some sports it will remain. Certainly not equal but Women's sports acceptable. It ranks when they think they should get equal pay for inferior game, even tennis they are playing 3 sets why?. in many tournaments where the pay is equal they should play 5 sets if that is what it is. it should be equal in all respects if pay is equal.Let them play with men where there is no contact between the players. when you demand something then you should have to show something.

  • on January 31, 2013, 16:20 GMT

    If India is so insecure that no hotel is available for Pakistan players then ICC should not ve given the worldcup to them..... even though venue is changed but yet such disappointing thing to happen..............

  • mast_zeeshan on January 31, 2013, 13:51 GMT

    Plz Stop comparing MEN and WOMEN cricket. Woman always want to be treated equally and sad fact is they need to produce same quality in order to draw crowd and attention same way. Not to sound rude! But i watched it, it was fun but believe me I could not just keep watching it. There were some good cuts and pulls but due to high standards set by meany leagues and stadium vibes and in field electricity that women game looks slower than a drawing test match.

  • Neutral-11 on January 31, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    Men love speed and power, some men even criticise men's cricket for lack of power and physical part compare to other sports. I feel for women cricket to be popular more women must start taking interest in it.

  • Rohan1210 on January 31, 2013, 12:26 GMT

    This is an absolutely brilliant per4mance by d Indian girls after losing d toss. 284 by d women's team is nt at all an easy total. Superb! All the best 4 d 2nd innings. Hope they depend it n gain a good NRR as well!

  • CricketMaan on January 31, 2013, 12:26 GMT

    'The teams are staying in a luxury landmark hotel,' - try saying that to a Pak fan..amidst politics and madness..a group of women have confied themselves into a stadium and will spend thier time inside it for weeks and hope to win hearts and a world cup. Since 1947 a lot has changed across borders, but some things has simply not changed! Change is constant im told..seems like its not always true!

  • JohnofBurgundy on January 31, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    Apples and Oranges, mens and womens cricket. The womens game is just as good in its own way and will probably produce more close games than the mens world cup did. It depends what you want a few smashed sixes or a tense game going down to the wire. Give me the latter any day.

  • Harlequin. on January 31, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    @Front-foot-lunge, I knew there was a thinking man behind all the aussie-baiting of your normal posts! Well said. @PratUSA, the women do in fact play with a different ball, but rather than being bigger and softer, it is slightly smaller (though i don't think the hardness is any different), which would make the batting slightly more difficult! @funkybluesman, fair point about wanting to see someone do something you can't, but that is not all of what sport is about. The thrill of a tight match, a tailender trying to eke out the last 10 runs or the fielding side trying desperately to keep the top-order batsman at the non-strikers are just as exciting as watching Morgan endlessly reverse-smack the ball through point.

  • EdGreen on January 31, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    TV and heavy sponsorship will only follow an audience - Its a shame however that those cricketing nations with public service TV stations (such as the BBC in the UK) don't do more for all minority sports - women's cricket included.

    Women's tennis is a curious comparison - it is massively subsidised from the revenues generate by the men's game - and despite being played over three not five sets prize money is comparable. Overall sport is about spectacle for most - and the bigger faster and stronger the competitors the bigger the spectacle - so few women's sports can compete on a level footing.

  • funkybluesman on January 31, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    I don't know why you say it's the only women's sport with such direct comparisons, I think most women's sport has similar comparisons.

    Most people would prefer to turn on the men's final in a major tennis tournament than the women's if they are after good tennis, I've seen some W-League on TV and compared to the men a lot of it looks like what you'd get watching your local club 3rd grade match.

    The difficulty women's sport has is that what often draws people to watch professional sport is seeing people do things so far beyond what you could conceive of yourself. You're a decent park cricket opening bowler, and probably bowl 105km/h, watching someone bowl 145km/h, or even more, face it, can be awe inspiring in comparison.

    It's just difficult to get those sorts of things in women's sport which I believe is the main reason it struggles so much. People like speed and power.

  • wablo55 on January 30, 2013, 22:30 GMT

    Good luck to all the teams competing, promises to be a cracking tournament with some top class cricket on display. My money is on England; they have some wonderful batters and are also excellent in the field. The credit and coverage that the sport deserves is well overdue.

  • PratUSA on January 30, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    I wonder if women's game can have its own set of rules that are distinct with men's game? Baseball which is cricket's sibling in some ways is also only a men's sport in U.S. and what women play is a version called softball (with a softer and bigger ball). Softball is still nowhere near in the popularity of baseball. It is difficult with the physical power aspect of it for women cricketers but there may be a way to create a unique game for them that has a chance to create its own identity.

  • Rightie on January 30, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Well-reasoned comments by Mithali, who displays maturity, communication skills, and analytical mind akin to Rahul Dravid.

  • ulhas.ravi on January 30, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    I'm definitely looking forward to the Women's World Cup from tomorrow.... Go India Go !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on January 30, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    I have always felt a great deal of pride in the English women's team, but also those of other nations; especially the teams from poorer countries, whose women often live a life far harder and rawer than women in western countries do. The women who represent their sport from a poorer country, often have to overcome cultural barriers, to put it gently, and attitudes far more discriminatory than western cricket fans are probably conscious of. I love seeing the English team succeed, as they so often do, in the Women's Cricket World Cup. I also love the way the tournament evokes a sentience about the lives of women around the world in a profound and, quite humbling, sense.

  • Nerk on January 30, 2013, 20:25 GMT

    To my mind, all cricket is good cricket. No matter the form or gender. I remember watching the last Women's World Cup and was thoroughly interested. The matches were close and the cricket was quality, and in the end that's what you want to see. @CricFanKrish - I believe they do have a 'Mr.World/Mr. Universe' pageant. I wouldn't recommend it.

  • CricFanKrish on January 30, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    It is a very sad truth that there are not many takers for women's cricket. When I told my wife "Hey, the women's world cup is about to get underway. We can watch the action live!", she was not really very enthusiastic about it. She is a cricket fan by the way and just adores Sachin Tendulkar.

    Just like there would be few takers for a "Mens beauty pageant" (imagine a Mr.World or Mr.Universe pageant). Would anybody care? It would be really unfair to compare Cricket to Tennis. Tennis is one of the sports where both men and women have very good opportunities and publicity.

    Yet, I am not writing off women's cricket, not by a long shot. I would very much like to see it gaining in popularity, but it could be a while before that happens. Just the fact that there are hardly any comments for this article shows how many people were even interested in it. I just hope that changes, and women's cricket starts getting the popularity I feel it truly deserves!

  • JB26 on January 30, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Yes, there is a gender difference...but the women's game has come a long way, and the quality of play is outstanding, and above all very entertaining to say the least. If you haven't watched the best women in the world play this great game at this level you need to watch more than a few overs...you go ladies!

  • JB26 on January 30, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Yes, there is a gender difference...but the women's game has come a long way, and the quality of play is outstanding, and above all very entertaining to say the least. If you haven't watched the best women in the world play this great game at this level you need to watch more than a few overs...you go ladies!

  • CricFanKrish on January 30, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    It is a very sad truth that there are not many takers for women's cricket. When I told my wife "Hey, the women's world cup is about to get underway. We can watch the action live!", she was not really very enthusiastic about it. She is a cricket fan by the way and just adores Sachin Tendulkar.

    Just like there would be few takers for a "Mens beauty pageant" (imagine a Mr.World or Mr.Universe pageant). Would anybody care? It would be really unfair to compare Cricket to Tennis. Tennis is one of the sports where both men and women have very good opportunities and publicity.

    Yet, I am not writing off women's cricket, not by a long shot. I would very much like to see it gaining in popularity, but it could be a while before that happens. Just the fact that there are hardly any comments for this article shows how many people were even interested in it. I just hope that changes, and women's cricket starts getting the popularity I feel it truly deserves!

  • Nerk on January 30, 2013, 20:25 GMT

    To my mind, all cricket is good cricket. No matter the form or gender. I remember watching the last Women's World Cup and was thoroughly interested. The matches were close and the cricket was quality, and in the end that's what you want to see. @CricFanKrish - I believe they do have a 'Mr.World/Mr. Universe' pageant. I wouldn't recommend it.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on January 30, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    I have always felt a great deal of pride in the English women's team, but also those of other nations; especially the teams from poorer countries, whose women often live a life far harder and rawer than women in western countries do. The women who represent their sport from a poorer country, often have to overcome cultural barriers, to put it gently, and attitudes far more discriminatory than western cricket fans are probably conscious of. I love seeing the English team succeed, as they so often do, in the Women's Cricket World Cup. I also love the way the tournament evokes a sentience about the lives of women around the world in a profound and, quite humbling, sense.

  • ulhas.ravi on January 30, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    I'm definitely looking forward to the Women's World Cup from tomorrow.... Go India Go !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rightie on January 30, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Well-reasoned comments by Mithali, who displays maturity, communication skills, and analytical mind akin to Rahul Dravid.

  • PratUSA on January 30, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    I wonder if women's game can have its own set of rules that are distinct with men's game? Baseball which is cricket's sibling in some ways is also only a men's sport in U.S. and what women play is a version called softball (with a softer and bigger ball). Softball is still nowhere near in the popularity of baseball. It is difficult with the physical power aspect of it for women cricketers but there may be a way to create a unique game for them that has a chance to create its own identity.

  • wablo55 on January 30, 2013, 22:30 GMT

    Good luck to all the teams competing, promises to be a cracking tournament with some top class cricket on display. My money is on England; they have some wonderful batters and are also excellent in the field. The credit and coverage that the sport deserves is well overdue.

  • funkybluesman on January 31, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    I don't know why you say it's the only women's sport with such direct comparisons, I think most women's sport has similar comparisons.

    Most people would prefer to turn on the men's final in a major tennis tournament than the women's if they are after good tennis, I've seen some W-League on TV and compared to the men a lot of it looks like what you'd get watching your local club 3rd grade match.

    The difficulty women's sport has is that what often draws people to watch professional sport is seeing people do things so far beyond what you could conceive of yourself. You're a decent park cricket opening bowler, and probably bowl 105km/h, watching someone bowl 145km/h, or even more, face it, can be awe inspiring in comparison.

    It's just difficult to get those sorts of things in women's sport which I believe is the main reason it struggles so much. People like speed and power.

  • EdGreen on January 31, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    TV and heavy sponsorship will only follow an audience - Its a shame however that those cricketing nations with public service TV stations (such as the BBC in the UK) don't do more for all minority sports - women's cricket included.

    Women's tennis is a curious comparison - it is massively subsidised from the revenues generate by the men's game - and despite being played over three not five sets prize money is comparable. Overall sport is about spectacle for most - and the bigger faster and stronger the competitors the bigger the spectacle - so few women's sports can compete on a level footing.