England's women can show who is No1
By Simon Hughes | The Daily Telegraph | Published: 25th September 2012 01:41 PM |
There are three number-one teams playing at the Riverside on Saturday. South Africa are the top-ranked Test and Twenty20 team, England lead the one-day international rankings and, due to an unbeaten run of 16 T20 games, the England women are also the No 1 limited-overs team in the world.
They play the West Indies at 10.15am in the first of three T20s as a lead up to their own T20 World Cup later this month in Sri Lanka, which they are favourites to win.
The women's match is live on TV and radio and should not be regarded as a mere aperitif to the main lunchtime fare. If you hadn't noticed, England have now got some serious players. Charlotte Edwards and Laura Marsh look to blitz the opening overs with some clean hitting, wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor must be the most exciting batsman ever to play the women's game – a sort of Kevin Pietersen without baggage – and Arran Brindle last year became the first woman to score a hundred in a men's Premier League match – for Louth in Lincolnshire.
There's Danni Wyatt, whose angelic face belies a fierce competitiveness with bat and ball, and bustling fast bowler Kathryn Brunt, a female Tim Bresnan. And watch out for the fielding of Lydia Greenway whose extraordinary saves on the boundary at Canterbury against India this year defied human biomechanics. Jolly-hockey-sticks types they are not.
The women's game has come so far in the 10 years since lottery funding was secured in 2002. A new 'Super 4s' tournament has bridged the gap between county cricket and the international stage, the Ashes were recaptured for the first time in 42 years and in 2008 coaching contracts with the ‘Chance to Shine’ schools initiative were granted to a number of the players. Many are employed full time in cricket and it has become a viable career option for girls.
My 12 year old daughter Nancy is involved at county level. There is a busy fixture list involving all the counties (minor and major) and even at that age they train harder than we used to as young aspiring teenagers. There are specialist coaches everywhere and careful assessment of all their attributes. It is very rigorous.
Just about the only piece of advice I ever got as a young hopeful was from the old England captain and chairman of selectors Gubby Allen, who was watching a junior match from his Bentley parked by the sightscreen. As I walked past he lowered the window and proclaimed 'Hughes – too many no balls!' (And my father would say I didn't even listen to that.)
All Out Cricket magazine this month devotes an entire supplement to women’s cricket. Their profile has never been higher and the flourishing of the women's game is vital in this country. Because of cricket's diminished exposure on live TV, parents and primary school teachers play a key role in encouraging kids to play the game – and well over half of those teachers are women.
If they have played cricket or been inspired by the England women they are more likely to encourage their class to play the game in PE instead of doing dance or gymnastics, or, god forbid, rounders – one of the most overrated sports going. It should be left to the beach where it belongs.
With girls outstripping boys in their rate of physical development, it is not beyond the realms of fantasy to imagine that one day a female might play for a male county team. That might stir things up a bit!