Women's cricket in 1977

No sooner had the excitements of the memorable Golden Jubilee year of 1976, with the visit of Australia and the first ever women's match at Lord's, died down than plans for the second World Cup competition to be held in India came to the fore. There is an intense enthusiasm for women's cricket in India, which is one of the youngest members of the International Women's Cricket Council, only comparable perhaps with that of our own women in the early thirties.

In the last three years the Indian women cricketers and their many supporters have welcomed Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies to India and so well established and endowed have they become that the invitation to New Zealand also included the payment of the visitors' return fares. Spectators come in their thousands to see these matches and there is no doubt that the World Cup, which took place from December 29, 1977 to January 23, 1978 engendered a tremendous interest in a country in which the emancipation of women is comparatively recent. Six countries participated, namely England, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, Holland and India. All teams were given free board and lodging and internal travelling facilities, but they defrayed their own return fares to India.

The following players were selected to represent England: Mary Pilling (Kent) captain, Jackie Court (Middlesex) vice-captain, Caroline Brown, Kate Brown, Heather Dewdney, Megan Lear (Kent), Gerry Davies, Chris Watmough (Surrey), Ros Heggs, Glynis Hullah, Cathy Mowat (Middlesex), Shirley Hodges (Sussex), Sheila Minto (Yorkshire), Lyn Read (East Anglia), Lynne Thomas, Margaret Wilks (west). Manager: Barbara Pont. Physiotherapist: Susan Boardman.

The omission of Rachael Flint from the team and her replacement as captain of England by Mary Pilling could be described as the sensation of 1977, and such was the extensive impact of these decisions on both the public and the membership that an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Women's Cricket Association was called to discuss and vote on the way in which this matter was dealt with. At the end of a well attended meeting the majority decided that the situation had indeed been mishandled, although it was agreed that, in a democratic association, selectors' decisions must be accepted as final. Furthermore the officers of the W.C.A. had acknowledged the great service that Mrs. Flint had given to women's cricket in the last eleven years; and there the matter rests for the time being.

Miss Sylvia Swinburne, who resigned as Chairman of the Association in January 1977, was awarded the O.B.E. in the Queen's Birthday Honours List and she acknowledged this in the following paragraph in the W.C.A. domestic Bulletin: "I realise only too well that what we achieved in the World Cup and our Jubilee Year was due to our founders and the many voluntary workers throughout the years. Therefore I hold the O.B.E. for them and trust that everyone will share in the reflected glory."

Australia's team for the World Cup contained ten of the players who toured England in 1976. Margaret Jennings, wicket-keeper, succeeded Anne Gordon as captain. Australia suffered a loss in the untimely deaths in the autumn of Una Paisley and June Cole. Una Paisley was vice-captain of the touring team to England in 1951 and subsequently captained Australia on her home ground. She was a good all-rounder, stocky and reliable. She revisited England in 1976 for the Golden Jubilee Test series. June Cole was a well-known administrator in the Australian Women's Cricket Council and she had held many posts, including that of Hon. Secretary of the Council. Not only was she a tireless worker, but she was also an expert on the history of women's cricket in Australia and was currently at work on a thesis on the subject.

Cricket for women is blossoming in three other countries. The Netherlands have had a resurgence of interest and have sent a team to India for the World Cup. A large Dutch banking group offered a prize for the woman cricketer of the year. Five members attended an umpires' weekend and others took part in an N.C.A. certificate course; several went to the W.C.A. annual Cricket Week. The Dutch association has also accepted an invitation for a team to visit England for two matches in 1978.

There is news of women's cricket from Denmark, where a women's section is being started by the Akademisk Boldclub of Copenhagen, which was 2300 members playing football, cricket, handball and tennis.

In the West Indies, Guyana took part for the first time in the Caribbean Federation tournament held in Grenada. The title was won by Trinidad and Tobago, from Barbados. This tournament is being held biennially, the next occasion being in January 1979.

Nearer home, in Ireland, Leinster has staged a revival. No women's cricket had been seen there for some seventeen years, but eight clubs took part in a competition sponsored by the shoe manufacturers, John Tyler and thereafter the leading club, Clontarf, organised a six-a-side tournament. Ten clubs competed in a League Cup competition in the Dublin area and it is expected that twelve or thirteen teams will be in existence in 1978.

Scotland, too, is showing signs of activity. An inaugural meeting to form a Scotland Women's Cricket Association was held in February. Mrs. Alison Wilson, a former cricket Blue, became Chairman and under her leadership the Association is growing and establishing itself. This young organisation has expressed its heartfelt thanks to Rachael Flint for her advice, encouragement and help.

Finally, an International Women's XI, captained by Rachael Flint, was invited to take part in a sponsored tour to Canada in celebration of the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club's 150th anniversary. Seven members of the touring team to India were in the party.

The season of 1977 at home was a domestic one and the emphasis, under a new chairman, the ex-England player, Rosemary Goodchild, a biologist at Slough College, was on junior development, and plans were finalised for Open Days in various centres for girls from 12 to 18 to learn cricket, as well as two-day courses for promising youngsters.

The Junior National Six-a-Side Indoor Competition was held at the R.A.F. Chessington Sports Centre and won by Sussex from the previous holders, Lancs & Cheshire.

The post of National Development Officer, held for the past six years by Miss E. A. Sanders, has terminated. The job will now be taken over by Development Officers in each area.

The annual Cricket Week held in August was hampered by bad weather, play being impossible on two days. Twelve teams took part.

The National Club Knock-Out competition was won by Wallington Women's Cricket Club for the third year in succession. They beat Edgbaston decisively in the final. The weather for this match and the Jubilee National Single Wicket Championship at Banstead remained excellent, but the sponsored match arranged between the W.C.A. and a Prince Charles XI at The Oval on June 19, in aid of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Fund, unfortunately had to be called off as the pitch was unfit.

© John Wisden & Co