West Indies host the World T20 2018. ©ICC

The Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA), on Wednesday released a report on the growth of professionalism in the women’s game. The report- the first of its’ kind in the women’s game- concludes that while “huge strides” have been made to make the women’s game more successful, there is still a long way to go.

One of the biggest concerns the report stresses upon is the growing disparity between teams. The standard of cricket in Australia and England, where their respective cricketing boards are investing heavily  in the development of the game, compared to the structure of cricket in countries such as Pakistan continues to grow. This issue needs to responded to immediately, before the more developed cricketing nations leave “the rest” far behind.

This point-of-view is supported by FICA Board Member Lisa Sthalekar, who writes in the introduction, “For the game to excel at the global level and to allow players to play on an even playing field and ensure competitive balance, minimum standards need to be enforced in terms of playing opportunities and pathways.”

The reports identifies only 120 players as fully professional players. These players are the ones that are nationally contracted by seven of the eight sides playing in the ICC Women’s Championship, barring Sri Lanka. 200 players have also been identified as semi-professionals. They are the players participating in semi-professional competitions; the Women’s National Cricket League (Australia), Women’s Big Bash League (Australia) and Kia Super League (England).

Despite the players in Australia participating in two leagues, they cannot be considered full-time professionals. This is because they need another source of income to support them, on top of what they earn from playing domestically. What is to be noted though is, while Australian domestic players may not be full-time professionals, there situation is better than those of any other country. For example the KSL, “With six teams and 15 contracted players per team, the KSL does provide earning opportunities to those below national level but, not sufficient to avoid the need for supplementary income or dual careers.”

It further goes on to criticize the KSL for “inconsistency in facilities, pitches, coaching standards and accommodation provisions.” It does however acknowledge that these issues will be addressed if the new format The 100 is introduced. While the KSL may be guilty of such irregularity, it is still a semi-professional league. No other country has a semi-professional league, with all of the playing at the amateur level. This further increases the gap between Australia and England and the rest.

Another complaint that came from the players was that while the schedule of women’s cricket is not very busy, it still clashes with overseas leagues. There is a need for “windows”. 90% of the players said there should be clear windows for international and domestic Twenty-20 events. During the time of KSL and WBBL, international matches should not be scheduled, otherwise players have to leave their contract. For example, in the last WBBL, we saw the South African and Indian players having to leave early, while in the KSL, the Indian’s again had to do the same. This is not fair to the players.

One of them expressed this by saying, “Our board always organizes a tour during the Women’s Big Bash so I am forced to choose. I play for my country and therefore I am losing more money by not playing in Australia than I make in a whole year with my national contract.”

Female players face more financial concerns than their male counterparts. The report found that 59% of the players either felt insecure or very insecure in their income coming from cricket and 68% of the players had  to work other jobs to supplement their income. Adding on to that, 56% of the players see their future outside of the game.

There was also a general consensus that more cricket needs to be played. 77% of the players said more test cricket needs to be played, while 50% agreed that not enough ODI cricket is played.

On a more positive note, 89% of the players were optimistic about the future of the women’s game. This view could have been influenced by the fact that the players voting were mostly from member of the FICA-affiliated associations. These are the players that get a chance to play internationally. They are not part of those who are not paid, yet play in the lower ranks of the domestic game.

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