ICC defends move to cancel Americas Women's Championship
The ICC has defended itself from criticism it has received regarding the cancellation of the ICC Americas Women's Championship by stating that money that would have been spent to hold the event would be better used to fund grassroots initiatives.
The ICC Americas Women's Division One Championship was last held in 2012 with the winner, Canada, advancing to the 2013 Women's World T20 Qualifier in Ireland, where they defeated Japan to finish third out of four teams in their group. In the 2011 Women's World Cup Qualifier, USA participated as the Americas representative and suffered five heavy defeats in their six games but managed to record a landmark one-run win over Full Member nation Zimbabwe. The results were not enough to prevent the regional event being scrapped for the foreseeable future.
The championship's format (T20 or one-dayers) is defined by the closest global women's tournament, so that it can serve as a qualifying tournament for teams from the Americas. So, it's scrapping means there is no chance for a team from the Americas to compete for a spot in the 2016 Women's World T20 and potentially the 2017 Women's World Cup and 2018 Women's World T20 as well, as there is no regional qualifier.
"No region has had a women's championship cancelled," stated an ICC spokesperson in response to an email from ESPNcricinfo. "However, the Americas region is the first region in which a women's championship has not been scheduled.
"In recent times, the majority of ICC investment in the women's game at Associate and Affiliate member level has gone into running international competitions. In some regions, these competitions are run for small groups of domestic players.
"In some cases, this opportunity has led to a significant increase in the number of women's players in the region while in others this investment focus has stagnated already small local player numbers. The latter has happened in the Americas region."
Nadia Gruny, who played for the USA at the 2011 Women's World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh and was their leading scorer at the 2012 ICC Americas Women's Championship, wrote a piece which was published by the Huffington Post last week in which she criticised the ICC's decision. Gruny believes it makes women's players in the USA and the Americas "victims of gender inequity" and that it is a violation of the "ICC's own principles and its goal to build a bigger, better, global game".
"Without the tournament, there is no incentive for US organisations to invest in women's cricket," Gruny wrote. "An entire region is denied an opportunity to play in a World Cup Qualifier event and the future generation of players has nothing to aspire to achieve. While other development regions improve as they conduct their qualifiers, the US and the rest of the Americas are left behind."
Durriya Shabbir, a Canada women's player, also spoke out against the move on the Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast. "Women's cricket has always been an afterthought," she said. "We've never been given the support from our board that we need to grow this game. Our boards are not doing enough to promote the game. If the ICC walks away from it as well, then what do the women have to look forward to?"
An online petition has been started to get the decision overturned and reinstate the ICC Americas Women's Championship. As of Tuesday, the petition had 248 signatures. Below ICC level though, the USA Cricket Association has not organised a regional or national championship tournament since July 2011 while there is also scant evidence of regional or national events for women's cricket elsewhere in the Americas. Meanwhile, the ICC wants to see evidence of domestic interest and growth across the region before they'll consider restarting the tournament.
Since the ICC Americas Women's Championship was first held in 2007, the ICC claims there have only been 90 new female players at amateur level that have been registered by a combination of the countries in the ICC Americas Women's Division One - USA, Canada, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Argentina and Brazil. These 90 new players were from levels that were low to begin. The USA, a country with more than 300 million people, is estimated to have only 100 registered female players, a number which is made up mainly of expatriates from South Asia and the Caribbean.
The ICC says the member countries in the region were informed during 2013 that the investment money that had previously been spent on running the tournament would be made available to them to fund grassroots projects. "The aim is to increase participation rates, provide more regular domestic playing opportunities for women and girls and ultimately strengthen domestic capacity. It is hoped that an increase in domestic participation will lead to the recommencement of this event in the future."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna