The Hundred draft. © Getty Images

Former England skipper Charlotte Edwards feels the women’s competition in ‘The Hundred’ was crucial having lost the Kia Super League, in order to keep the momentum going especially after the success of the T20 World Cup in Australia earlier in the year. She also emphasized the importance of the event being aligned with the men’s competition.

“Everyone speaks about the Hundred being so important for the men’s game, but it was going to be absolutely crucial for the women’s game, having lost the KSL,” Edwards said. “We’re absolutely gutted about that not being in place this summer. It was so important that they were aligned. That was probably the one thing missing from the KSL – there wasn’t that identity with a men’s team.

“Having been out to the WBBL and the BBL for the last four or five years I’ve seen what an impact that can have, having those teams aligned. I was already starting to see how you can gain momentum by doing that through things like social media in the lead-up to the tournament,” added Edwards.

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The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the entire world to a halt forcing the ECB to postpone The Hundred to 2021. While the men’s team are scheduled to hit the training grounds on June 1, the women are expected to resume training later in June.

The ECB still plans to award 40 new full-time contracts at some stage as part of a plan to invest 20 million pounds ($24.9 million) in the women’s game. For several uncontracted female cricketers in England, the new league was to be their only source of income this year.

“This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the domestic game,” said Edwards, who has led England to ODI and T20I world titles in 2009. “Having had the investment that the ECB have given to the game in the past few months we were all ready to hit the ground running. The pandemic has stopped us in our tracks.

“The ECB have said that the money is still guaranteed. We’ve missed the T20 competition in May and June, but I think everyone is really hopeful that the new domestic competition will start in August and September – so hopefully, we can get this new domestic structure underway,” she added.

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Edwards also feels that the new domestic structure (to establish the centres of excellence made up of a consortium of several counties in each region) will stand them in good stead in the next few years. “The new domestic structure, with eight teams across the country, means there’s a good even spread,” she said.

“We’ve had too many girls playing across 39 counties for the last however many years. To streamline that means we should reap the benefits in the next few years. Our talent pool was spread so far and wide. Hopefully this new structure will align everything better, and young girls will be able to see a progression from their county to their regional team and then onto the England side.”

Although England are still far behind Australia in terms of player contracts in the last few years, Edwards stressed it has come at the right time for the women’s game in the country. “This has come at the right time for women’s cricket in this country, but we’ve still got a fair way to go to make up the ground we’ve lost to Australia,” said Edwards who retired from the game in 2016.

“It’s only the last ten years that the best players have been paid to play cricket, certainly at the highest level. I was lucky enough to play for England but in the last four or five years there has only been 22 players contracted, whereas in Australia they’ve had 100 people on really good contracts.”