Heather Knight confident about women’s cricket featuring in ECB’s plans

Heather Knight © Getty Images

It was to be a landmark year for women’s cricket in England with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) scrapping the Women’s Cricket Super League and announcing 40 new player contracts as part of the 21 million euros investment to go with the reshaping of the domestic setup. But all those huge plans were put paid to by the coronavirus pandemic, to the extent that many in the domestic setup are worried about their livelihood for the year. It was expected that women’s cricket would be ignored in favour of men’s as the sport looks to resurrect itself.

But England captain Heather Knight has said that the women are in the scheme of things of the ECB and there have been constant talks about getting the women back on the field.

“We’re massively in the plans. We’ve had lots of discussions with the ECB,” Knight told BBC Live Sport Specials.

“A lot of talk about bio-secure environments and I know it involves putting in a lot of work to get it up and running in the next couple of months. We’re pretty realistic and we know the dire situation the game is potentially in if cricket doesn’t happen.”

She said that they were aware of the men’s sport being given more importance because of the financial aspect and that doesn’t disappoint her.

“If those Test matches and men’s ODIs don’t take place then does leave a big hole in the game which is going to impact all areas of the game, especially the women’s game. That’s the place the game is at the moment.”

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“But I know the ECB are desperate to play some women’s cricket and I’m sure that’s going to happen. A lot is dependent on government advice and the fact that everyone’s safe. It is how it is.”

While tentatively England’s men’s Test matches are set for a July start, there is little clarity on when and how the women’s game will get underway.

“They’re looking at different options,” said Knight. “I’m not too sure if we can do it at the same time as men, because there’s limit on how many people could be in that environment to make it as safe as possible. I imagine it would be separate to the men’s schedule.”

Storm qualify for the finals day. ©Western Storm/Website

While the plan to announce 40 new contracts had been withheld, the ECB has announced 24 retainer contracts for domestic cricketers. Knight said that it was a step in the right direction.

“It was going to be an absolutely massive year for the women’s game in this country,” she said. “Although there was a lot of talk about The Hundred, the main thing that was happening was those domestic contracts and the start of the professionalism of the domestic game in this country which is brilliant.”

“The investment that the ECB had put for the women’s game is a strong plan, very ambitious. The move to announce those retainers is already a positive one. We need a system below the England level that is competitive, produces really good level and provides those who are dropouts from the England contracts a chance to still earn a living, train and push to get a place in the England setup.”

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While there is uncertainty about cricket in the post-COVID-19 world, Knight has a couple of wishes. She wants to see the domestic structure in England get better for young girls to take up cricket and come up the ranks to play for England. The second thought was about having a minimum amount of investment in women’s cricket all over the world.

“The richer nations at the moment are investing massively in women’s cricket and are seeing the benefits of that and seeing how the game is growing,” she said.

“I guess we are not seeing that across all the countries. So whether there could be some minimum standards of investments by different countries into women’s game. If that doesn’t happen, you’re potentially going to see a widening of the gap between the countries that invest more in women’s cricket and the ones that don’t.”