Outside of the semi-professional ranks of England, Australia and New Zealand, women’s cricket is a disgrace. Almost every team is a minnow.
South Africa should be disgusted at the lack of funds and professionalism its women team has. India is allowing its women’s cricket to dry up. West Indies have only started taking it seriously since two players showed talent. Pakistan should be promoting heroes in all walks of life. And when we are constantly told that Bangladesh is cricket crazy, where are their women?
The ICC hasn’t been good enough on this either.
Paying the women less per diems at the World Twenty20 was wrong, and sent a terrible message. The organisation of this tournament has been amateur. And why hasn’t the ICC forced all countries to turn their women’s teams into professional outfits. No Test playing nation should receive any revenue from ICC tournaments if they do not intend to use at least five percent of it on women’s cricket.
It’s 2013, and this is a billion-dollar game. The Women’s World Cup is being transmitted around the world, these women deserve to be paid and treated like professional athletes. And if you want to know the difference between amateur women’s cricket, and professional women’s cricket, you just have to watch a replay of Sri Lanka’s win over England.
In the last World Cup, the Sri Lankan women were horrible. They looked like a club team that had been cobbled together and told to play in a World Cup for their country.
Someone in the Sri Lankan government must have been embarrassed by that.
You won’t get a bigger critic of the Sri Lankan government’s treatment of cricket. They approve the selections, place old politicians in the teams, and have generally held back Sri Lankan cricket on and off the field with their own politics. But, one of them also made the decision that today, led to their women winning their first ever match against England, the World Champions.
That decision was to move women’s cricketers into the armed forces. Allowing them to dedicate their entire working life to becoming better cricketers. Today the proof was right on the screen.
The Sri Lankan team were chasing 239, their openers built a foundation, one hitting, the other blocking. They gave their middle order a chance, and then at No. 7 a woman Eshani Kaushalya came in and took seven balls to get off the mark. At first I thought she was out of her depth. I thought that perhaps Sri Lanka had a few decent top-order players and their middle order had nothing.
Then Kaushalya hit out. She took the spinners back over their heads, she slogged when she had to, and much like when Kevin O’Brien slogged the men’s team, the England women completely lost the plot.
England were never supposed to be in a competitive game. They were playing a minnow. Just turning out and executing their skill sets, as the cricketers say, would be enough. Now they were being slogged around the park by a middle-order Sri Lankan with an average of 15, with one fifty to her name and two sixes in her 47 match career.
England’s cricket world collapsed. The English girls usually field like hawks, now they were fielding like a Sunday pub side. Jenny Gunn is usually frugal and hard to get away; she was tossing up dribble ball after ball. Elwiss dropped a catch that she’s taken in fielding practice 10,000 times.
Earlier on the Sri Lankan girls would have hoped for a plucky display and some sort of moral victory that they weren’t minnows anymore. Instead they crashed into the last over needing nine runs to win.
The last over was amazing.
Starting with a single to short fine leg to Surangika, Sri Lanka needed eight to win from five balls, and Kaushalya was on 49 from 39 balls.
Instead of showing any nerves, Kaushalya smacked a six over square leg. She celebrated like she had won the game, when in fact they still needed two from four.
The next ball Kaushalya tried to do the same thing, but hit it straight up in the air. The ball took a while to come down, and while it did, Kaushalya was smart enough to remain in Elwiss’ eyeline as she was about to take the chance that could have won England the game. Instead, she dropped it.
England briefly complained that Kaushalya had obstructed the field, but the replays showed Kaushalya had played it brilliantly, running off the pitch and in the general direction of Elwiss without ever actually getting in her way. Genius cricket, and tieing the scores.
The next ball she was run out when Surangika smacked the ball straight to mid-off, and Kaushalya ran, and Surangika did not. England had enough of their composure left to complete the run-out with ease.
Now Sri Lanka were nine wickets down – the scores were tied – and Surangika, the Sri Lankan keeper who has batted in every position from 3-11, had to score one run for victory off the last two balls.
She smacked the penultimate ball straight to point, no run. Instead of coming down to chat to her partner, she walked off to square leg to get rid of her frustration.
Now the game was set up perfectly. Underdogs up against the powerhouse of their sport, the reigning champions. Nine wickets down. Scores tied. A game televised around the world.
Surangika dealt with that by hitting a six. Her first ever international six. To win the first ever game against England for her country.
It was not an exciting game of women’s cricket, it was exciting cricket. It was about as far from a disgrace as you can get.