'Women's cricket needs more PR'
This year could be a landmark one for women's cricket with the outcome of the two World Cups likely to determine the game's future in a big way. Cricinfo spoke to Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, the England captain at the inaugural World Cup in 1973, who had a key role in organising the tournament back then, on where she thinks the women's game is headed.
How much of an impact can the two World Cups this year have on women's cricket?
The two World Cups in 2009 are sure to make an impact, but still much hard work is needed to get the media on board. The fact that the Twenty20 World Cup in England will have the final staged at Lord's on the same day as the men's Twenty20 will be fantastic. My only concern is that the women's game may suffer by comparison on the same day. But let's make sure it doesn't.
Is the game on the right course, according to you?
The world game is definitely on the right course. But still an enormous amount of PR has to be driven into all the events and matches to make the sport acceptable to the cricket-loving public throughout the world.
In men's cricket there has been a huge difference in the style of cricket as well as professionalism between players in the first World Cup and the one in 2007. Do you think there have been a lot of changes in the women's game in the period too? What sort of changes have you observed?
Since 1973 the women's game has most certainly changed for the better - especially in the professionalism, and the mere fact that women's teams now wear the same gear as the men for cricket. I hated wearing white culotte skirts that made us look more like a netball team! I also think it has been of huge benefit to all the nations' governing bodies to be an integral part of the male game - i.e. the ECB, Cricket Australia, New Zealand Cricket etc. This has led to much greater professionalism and financial support.
What according to you has been the biggest change in women's cricket since your retirement?
The biggest change in women's cricket since my playing days is the fact that international players in England do not have to buy their own playing equipment and apparel, do not have to pay for their own hotel and overseas travel, and do actually have central contracts in England thanks to the ECB and Chance to Shine. In other words, the players are rewarded for playing for their country and do not have to suffer the financial restrictions that we had to bear. Not that I resent that fact. It was all relative at the time, but I am very glad for international women's cricketers of today that they get so much more financial and material support. They deserve it.
|"For women's cricket to progress in business terms the great god television must be wooed to cover the game more widely. But I am the first to admit that women's cricket will never be as explosive or as dynamic as the men's game"|
There have been a lot of positives over the last two years - mergers, rankings, contracts, Twenty20 World Cup. Has everything that needed to be done been accomplished and is it now time for the game to speak for itself?
I am thrilled that the ICC has taken women's cricket on board and is giving the game so much support and recognition. And what a marvellous trophy has been created for the first-ever ICC Twenty20 World Cup, but let us not forget the generosity of Sir Jack Hayward, the British-born Bahamas-based businessman who gave women's cricket its first World Cup in 1973.
What are England's chances in the 2009 World Cup? Who are favourites?
I fully support England in their quest to win the 2009 World Cup, but the competition will be tough with so many talented teams involved. How about that for a diplomatic answer!
There seems to be a lot more money in cricket nowadays, but how much of that is filtering down to the women's game? Conversely, with other sports becoming more attractive is it difficult to attract women to cricket?
For women's cricket to progress in business terms the great god television must be wooed to cover the game more widely. But I am the first to admit that women's cricket will never be as explosive or as dynamic as the men's game. It must just be accepted for the very many skills that are apparent, and that will only be achieved with persistent lobbying and exceptional presentational skills and performances.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo