Bates calls for more women's Tests with Ashes-like format in other series

Suzie Bates at a press conference Getty Images

Suzie Bates, New Zealand's most capped female cricketer, does not have a Test appearance to her name. Five years ago, she felt "a bit cheated" at not having had the opportunity to play in the longest format, a run of luck that has not changed 13 years on from her international debut. Nearly a decade-and-a-half since New Zealand women last played a Test, the 31-year-old former national captain underscored that the onus rests on the boards of the top eight nations, rather than the ICC, to host "at least one annual Test".

"There's a real opportunity for the boards, away from the ICC, to encourage at least one annual Test match between certain countries," Bates told ESPNcricinfo, putting her weight behind the multi-format women's Ashes as a template for other nations to follow.

"The series structure of England versus Australia is brilliant. If we had, say, a tour of India and we decided we have three ODIs, three T20Is and one Test match, that would be one of the best experiences for our group. I believe there is a real opportunity for the top eight nations to host a Test match a year. I was speaking to Smriti [Mandhana, the 22-year-old India opener, during the Women's T20 Challenge] the other night. She has played two Test matches; I haven't played any (laughs). She couldn't believe that."

The two Tests Mandhana featured in are the only ones India have played in the longest format in the last decade. In fact, outside of Australia and England, India are the only team alongside South Africa (one match) to have played women's Tests at all since 2008, with only one Test (England v Australia) taking place since August 2015.

Bates' views on the need for national boards, other than only Australia and England, to back Test cricket for their women's players come a little over a month after Australia captain Meg Lanning called on "big fish" India to "get involved" in promoting women's Tests.

Beyond her standing as a stalwart of the women's game, the New Zealander's stance on women's Tests assume greater significance when viewed in light of her position as the only woman on the current MCC World Cricket Committee, an independent panel of former and current players and umpires, that can propose changes to the sport's laws. Bates also offered another suggestion to get more countries involved in women's Tests.

"One other thing I thought about, and with my role at the MCC… I see a potential in the opportunity for some of the best cricketers to play Tests, outside of bilateral series if they do at all turn into a reality, is when England and Australia play their Ashes series," said Bates, who was appointed to the committee in 2017.

"They could pick a Rest of the World side to play a Test match each against England and Australia in the build-up to their Ashes. That's another way to see what the standard is like, besides providing them [England and Australia] with another match because they only play one match as well.

"That's something I've sort of thought of randomly, and it might be a good way to give a push to women's Tests. It's a something I've thought of as a selfish thing because I'd love to play a Test, and if the Ashes are the only Test series you're going to hold, I'd love to play an Ashes. How cool would that be, even though I am neither from Australia nor England?"

Bates admitted that T20s are the best bet to grow women's cricket, but if commercial viability is the only hurdle on the path of hosting more women's Tests, boards could chose to cut costs by not broadcasting the game(s).

"The Test match doesn't need to be televised," said Bates. "We don't need to televise everything if that's a reason for not holding Tests, and if you want to promote only the Twenty 20 format as much as you can. Do they go along the commercial side with no broadcast? Perhaps yes.

"I do understand why Twenty20 cricket has become the main push for women's cricket. And, look, without it we wouldn't have been at the [Women's] Big Bash [League], KSL [Kia Super League], or the Women's T20 Challenge. I get why the boards want more T20 cricket for women because commercially... the television factor, the entertainment, so understandably that's going to come first now, and I'm supportive of that."

Only last week, Bates was part of the first multi-team Women's T20 Challenge, as one of the 12 overseas participants. The Player of the Match in the one-off exhibition that took place in 2018, under the same tournament banner, Bates underlined that the road-map for the Indian domestic tournament should take into consideration a few key factors going forward.

"I'm an advocate for progression," Bates said. "I do believe that by having last year's exhibition game slightly bigger, longer this year, you get a peek into the problems, you get to talk to the people close to the women's game about what's right.

"I think for me the No. 1 thing is the real clear window, so that we don't miss the likes of the South Africa and Pakistan and Australians, so there's plenty of information for the boards over a period of time and you are able to get the best of the best from around the world. It will lift the standard."

Where does Bates stand on the teams' structure for next year's edition?

"The number of teams is a contentious issue," Bates replied. "I don't know the depth of Indian (domestic) cricket, but even three teams like this year had really good players on the sidelines. So I'd definitely root for four, but I see potential for six.

"Once you put them out there, the next tier of players have something to look up to. They may be miles away from the Indian side right now, but if they see here are six teams training hard for a women's IPL, playing in a women's IPL, they will want to be a part of it. Initially there may be a gap, but in the following one or two years, it just naturally builds as we've seen in the Big Bash."