Women's World Cup 2013 February 20, 2013

The most competitive World Cup

The Women's World Cup was memorable because the powerhouses were challenged by lesser teams, but the game needs significant investment immediately

Sri Lanka beating England and India; West Indies beating New Zealand and Australia. Women cricketers have been playing World Cups for the past 40 years but such results were scarcely imaginable, even as late as the 2009 edition. For showing that traditional powerhouses Australia, England and New Zealand can be beaten on the biggest stage by sides that hardly get to play them otherwise, this World Cup is a watershed in the spread of the women's game.

This tournament came amid increasing visibility for the women after the ICC's commendable move to have them and the men playing the World Twenty20 together, with the women's knockouts preceding the men's on television. The cheers from the Premadasa crowd - growing every minute in anticipation of the men's final - for Jodie Fields and her Australian team after they won the tournament in Colombo were spontaneous and heartwarming.

While the people of Mumbai were largely ignorant of or indifferent to the Women's World Cup, it was their loss as they missed out on some fascinating cricket. The women put up a spectacular display throughout - the power of Deandra Dottin and Eshani Kaushalya, the swing of Anya Shrubsole, the aggression of Katherine Brunt, the athleticism of Ellyse Perry, the tactics of Jodie Fields, the skill of Lisa Sthalekar, the talent of Harmanpreet Kaur, the vivacity of Holly Ferling, the dominance of Suzie Bates and much more.

Sri Lanka and West Indies came out of nowhere and impressed, but the old order showed staying power. Australia were outstanding right through, and England would have probably given them a fight in the final, had they not suffered two narrow losses. To West Indies' credit, they did a complete turnaround in the Super Six, winning all three games after suffering heavy defeats to India and England in the group stage. Hosts India were the biggest disappointment of the tournament. Sri Lanka ambushed them with the bat, and Mithali Raj's comment that she had never expected Sri Lanka to make so many runs said it all.

New Zealand captain Bates, the Player of the Tournament, said that with teams such as West Indies and Sri Lanka getting better and better, her team was in danger of falling behind if more resources and tours weren't organised. Such a prognosis from one of the foremost players of the game should be taken note of, and not only by New Zealand Cricket.

All boards have to invest more, and all teams have to play more. If ever the administrators needed evidence that most of the major teams can play consistently competitive women's cricket, this World Cup provided that. If the cricket community is serious about women's cricket, it will have to put in the money now. Looking at short-term or even medium-term returns is no way to grow a product. In industries such as insurance, companies take decades to break even. That does not mean the world lives without insurers.

The business acumen of India's administrators made the men's game the lucrative industry it is today. It is a cash cow in India, generating massive profits far beyond what is required to keep it growing. In business, a cash cow is used to finance and grow other operations of the same company. Will the BCCI do the same for the Indian women's team? At the moment, it is not even a remote possibility.

Just providing your academies and grounds to the women and paying them peanuts is apologetically insufficient investment. What is the use if they don't play most of the time? Twenty six ODIs in four years between the 2009 and 2013 World Cups? MS Dhoni and his men played around five times that number. Merissa Aguilleira and her West Indies women played close to 40. No wonder India sank at the slightest hint of pressure against England and Sri Lanka.

For all their potential, Sri Lanka and West Indies have a limited pool of players at or close to the top level. It is understood to be just about 50 women in Sri Lanka and they will face a problem in the coming years when the likes of Shashikala Siriwardene, Kaushalya and Chamani Seneviratna depart. It is almost always a struggle for West Indies when Stafanie Taylor and Dottin don't fire. There is no reason, especially after their World Cup heroics, why both sides have to wait for the next World Cup to play the big opponents.

There is also no reason, after a few stars have hopefully been created in this World Cup, why the world has to wait for the next World Cup to hear about them again. A great like Mithali Raj might possibly not even be around when the next one comes along.

It is here that the ICC needs to make its goal of a binding FTP for the women's game come true sooner than later. Cricketers are supposed to play cricket, after all, and not lay dormant waiting for the big stage to be made available once in a while. There couldn't be a better time for women's cricket to be taken seriously by everyone, especially the administrators. It will be unfortunate if the world keeps waiting for 2017.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • N on February 21, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    I don't know why everyone seems to think women's cricket is inferior. Sure, it doesn't have as many hard-core followers, it's not on TV as much, not as much publicity, but I believe it was Sanjay Manjrekar who made a great point about how women's cricket provides simple pleasures. Who wants to see all this fuss about DRS and whatnot and not some beautiful swing bowling, a smaller gap between bowlers and bats(wo)men in today's game, etc.?

  • udendra on February 21, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    for a game to blossom it should have competition. to have competition big teams like ENG, AUS need to play more with lesser teams like SL, PAK. then only will the women's game attract more spectators & coverage.

  • Prateek on February 21, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Sorry mr Purohit this is the upteenth time during this wwc that you have slated mumbai and its people for not getting big crowds !!! Was there big crowds in cuttack i dare ask ? Or for that matter has there ever been full house crowds for the entire womens world cup event anywhere in the world ??? Mumbai is a busy city and people here work very hard to stay and survive in this city.So it is not their loss that there were not big crowds.Mumbai gets enough top grade cricket throughout the year and we have mumbai indians team also where we regularly get full houses.International matches of the mens team also struggle to get full houses especially the test matches who nobody here has the time to see.So blame it on scheduling that so many matches at such short intervals were given to only one city.I think such events should be taken to grade b and c cities and only the finals played in metros like mumbai.I hope cricinfo publish my comment and purohit should refrain from making such comments

  • Roo on February 21, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    With Tests an all but dead format (except Oz v Eng), the womens World Cups need to be run bi-annually with a series each year...

    At present Oz & NZ play each other regularly in our summer (Rose Bowl), but little with the other nations - perhaps a quad series with Ind, SL should become part of a regular comp... Or perhaps a womens league, but that would require a lot of co-operation between the nations & ICC plus sponsors...

  • Paul on February 21, 2013, 2:10 GMT

    I couldn't agree more with manav599. Here in the US, our chances of seeing cricket are virtually zero; cricinfo's screening of some of the World Cup matches was a major treat. (Of course, I only ever saw half of a match, either a first innings late at night for an early-start morning match or a second innings late at night for a day-night match!) But it was the skill of the cricket that really amazed. Lisa Sthalekar (damn her for retiring!) and Holly Colwell are among the best spinners I've seen in years, while Holly Ferling was a revelation -- a truly exciting young fast bowler.

    My one complaint is that, most of the time, I have to hunt all over cricinfo for the latest news in women's cricket -- y'know, somewhere less headlined than the results from the Kenyan Twenty20 Domestic Second XIs League will be a grudging reference to the latest women's Test. I really think you folks could try harder in this respect.

  • Kapil on February 21, 2013, 2:00 GMT

    As a Mumbaikar - I just want to defend Mumbai here. Don't blame us for not showing up - blame the organizers and India's early knockout. First of all, most people didn't even know there was a WC on until it got some negative press due to the Ranji Final and the Pak team issue. Then - there were way too many matches in Mumbai. For eg, I planned on going to the Ind-Eng game but something else came up. Now, had it been a men's odi which comes around once in two years, I would have ditched everything else. But because India was expected to play at least 3 more matches in Mum in the next few days, I decided to skip the Eng game. Then of course, Ind got knocked out and the WC was essentially over. As far as non-India matches are concerned, not many people showed up for them even in the men's 2011 WC. At least in Mum, even the ones who did show up prob did so because the tickets were bundled together with the final. Simply put, who wants to watch neutral games when u can watch ur home team ??

  • Terry on February 21, 2013, 1:17 GMT

    I agree that womens cricket is important for promotion and think that domestic leagues need to be changed accordingly. I think Australia should lead the way by changing the Big Bash League to be a mixed team competition with twelve players per team, being six men and six women. The rules should be any subsititute must be the same gender and there must be at least two specialist batsmen and one specialist bowler from each gender (meaning six of twelve players must be specialists). I would also limit international players to one for men (of six) and three for women (of six). Meaning you can having upto four international players. This would help womens cricket in Australia as players would have the opportunity to earn the big money and play against tougher opponents. It would also mean that the BBL is more elite as instead of 8 x 11 men players, it would be 8 x 6 men and 8 x 6 women, meaning that most of the best 48 women in the world could play the BBL, which would be high standard.

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2013, 0:19 GMT

    sri lanka could have won the world cup. they missed it.

  • adit on February 20, 2013, 22:26 GMT

    India is still a male-centric country. The BCCI is not giving the women the same prominence as their male counterparts. The result will be a further decline in Indian Women's cricket much to the dismay of fans and players alike. With so much talent in India it is a shame that players are not given a chance to develop to their full potential and talent is wasted while the coffers of BCCI are overflowing. The BCCI seems to forget that nothing lasts forever and their full coffers may not be there forever. If they don't use it to their advantage they will have no one to blame and will see further decline in their cricket. The country, the players and the fans deserve much better. Look how cash strapped WI invested in their women and how they shone like stars. A lesson to India.

  • ian on February 20, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    It was a great tournament! Women's cricket is now eminently watchable & the skills on show by the best players match those that could be shown by a competent first-class side. Only the speed & the strength are missing, but that's the way nature, not nurture has it. It was a great tournament for the Australians & the Windies, despite their worst showing in the final when they may have been overcome by the occasion. England, NZ & SL can take some satisfation out of the tournament, although Eng will be disappointed & SL much heartened by their progress. Then there are those teams that occupied 7th & 8th places: India & Pakistan. There is much to be said about their disappointing performances & it is, IMO, very largely to do with the culture regarding women, including women playing cricket in those countries. India has monumental issues with the manner in which women are treated (by men, of course) & this extends to allowing them opportunties to play. Pakistan too needs to think again, pls