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Sue de Groot

Twenty20 is for girls

Why the shortest form is tailormade for the fairer sex

Sue de Groot

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Getting into the spirit: spectator Kate Roberts takes the first Lord's Ladies' Day very seriously, Middlesex v Essex, Lord's, June 7, 2008
Cricket match or Ascot? © Clare Skinner/MCC
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Teams: South Africa

So last week I was stuck in traffic on the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The only difference between me and the other motorists is that they were commuting (they do this every day, poor sods) and I was trying to get to the Champions Trophy final at Supersport Park, being played between Australia and New Zealand.

After two hours spent traversing a stretch of road that under normal conditions would take 15 minutes, I began to lose hope. The radio announcer said that it had turned into a contest, and clearly the man in the car next to us was a New Zealander, because he shook his fist vigorously at a yellow van that cut in front of him, but as the minutes wore on and the road remained unmoved beneath our wheels, it became apparent that we were not going to make it.

I thought of phoning one of my girl friends for a chat, but explaining to them that we had deliberately chosen to be on this road at this time in order to watch cricket would have been difficult. Then my thoughts turned to cricket, and how, if this were a proper match, it wouldn't matter all that much if we failed to get there in time for the end of today's play, because tomorrow morning would herald the second day of the same match, and then there would be another, and another, and another.

Very few of my girl friends, unfortunately, understand this sentiment. That said, a study conducted in 2007 concluded that women watch more hours of cricket than any other sport. Now I'm always a bit suspicious of statistical studies. There's one that says the average person swallows eight spiders in a lifetime - how could anyone possibly know that?

However, the statisticians' conclusion about cricket is much more likely to be accurate. It makes sense that women watch more hours of cricket than any other sport, because cricket lasts for hours longer than any other sport. I suspect, however, that the number of women cricket enthusiasts increased exponentially when the one-day game became popular.

If you ask me, the one-dayer was invented for women. You don't usually have to lie awake at night wondering what condition the pitch will be in tomorrow, or whether the spin bowler is getting a good night's rest, like you do with proper cricket.

Women, by and large, tend to be busy creatures, and cricket is the one sport they can watch while getting other stuff done. You can wash the dishes, give the cat a bath, fill in your tax return and pluck your eyebrows, and when you come back to the game the same batsman will still be in. And the odds are that when he goes out you'll want to watch him take his helmet off, because cricketers are undoubtedly the best-looking of all sports heroes. Also, if you leave Kevin Pietersen out of it, they have the best manners.

 
 
I didn't pay much attention to what was happening on the field, though I remember a certain culinary flavour to the names of the players: Cook, Lamb, Rice, Kourie
 

Even with this all these advantages, however, it takes some women a while to warm up to the great game. My cricket-watching career began when I was about four years old, when my father took me to the traditional Boxing Day game at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. I didn't pay much attention to what was happening on the field, though I remember a certain culinary flavour to the names of the players: Cook, Lamb, Rice, Kourie…

The incident I recall most clearly was how my father saved my life by catching hold of my ankle as I fell headfirst down the stand, then saved me a second time as the burly man down whose neck I had poured my soft drink turned around shouting words I didn't understand.

The trauma of that day may have tainted my view of cricket, because it wasn't until my teenage years that I returned to the field, and this time actually watched what was going on. It was the 1980s and a team of West Indians had defied the sanctions then in place against South Africa. Being young and ignorant, I thought the team was called The Rebels. They, and of course the home team too, changed my view of cricket. I watched an injured Collis King play a heroic innings and still got home before midnight.

These days, the data smog that envelops us has brought with it an attention deficiency that clamours for more in a shorter space of time. Where women might have learned to love the ODI, they are now offered cricket McNuggets in the form of the Twenty20. If you question me on the empirical truth of this statement, let me offer anecdotal evidence. The morning after I didn't make it to Centurion, I saw one of my girl friends and told her how we got stuck, and her response was: "You didn't miss anything. Being in a traffic jam is the same as watching cricket. It's, like, everybody's sitting still and waiting for something to happen, and then there's some movement, and everybody gets all excited, and then you stop and wait again."

Which, if you ask me, proves my point. Twenty20 was made for women.

RSS FeedSue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter

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Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.

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Sue de Groot Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.
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