Please don’t bring the boundaries in: Shikha Pandey pleads against superfluous tweaks to women’s cricket

Shikha Pandey celebrates after picking up a wicket. © ICC

In a series of tweets on Saturday (June 27), Shikha Pandey, India’s seam-bowling allrounder, had her say on the recent suggestions of reduction in the length of pitches as well as the size of the ball for women’s cricket.

“I personally feel most of the suggestions to be superfluous,” she tweeted.

“An Olympic 100m female sprinter doesn’t run 80m to win First place medal and clock the same timing as her male counterpart. So the whole ‘decreasing the length of the pitch’ for whatever reasons seems dubious. Also, it almost definitely takes the double headers out of question.”

In ICC’s ‘100% Innovation’ – part of their ‘100% Cricket’ webinar series – Jemimah Rodrigues and Sophie Devine had suggested these measures to attract more young girls as well as fans to the sport.

“We can also be open to (a shorter pitch), try it out. If that is going to help the game improve and take it to the next level, then why not?” Rodrigues had said, while Devine reckoned, “I reckon bowlers are going to be able to bowl the ball quicker, spinners are going to be able to turn the ball more. Hopefully, the ball should fly a bit further as well,” advocating the use of smaller balls.

In another of ICC’s series, ‘Cricket Inside Out’, Ian Smith, commentator and former New Zealand player, had talked about maintaining the weight of the ball, irrespective of its size.

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“You’ve got to be careful when you start talking about a cricket ball becoming lighter, because the lighter the ball is, the harder it is to hit it a long way,” he said, comparing the cricket ball with a tennis ball and a ping-pong ball.

“You can hit a tennis ball as far as a cricket ball, but you can’t hit a ping pong ball as far as  cricket ball, because it’s the weight that takes them. If you can make a smaller ball and keep the weight in there, that would help batters hit it far.”

Pandey was open to reducing the size of the ball but not the length of the pitches, while also keeping in mind Smith’s point about the weight.

“Reducing the size of the ball is fine, but as Ian Smith suggested, it only works if the weight remains the same,” she wrote. “This will allow for bowlers to grip the ball better – more revs for the spinners – and hits will also travel further (not be the case if it is light).”

There were also suggestions about reducing the size of the boundary in order to induce the big hits and get more boundaries. But the Indian allrounder was well against shortening the boundaries.

“Please don’t bring the boundaries in! We have surprised you with our power-hitting in recent times, so remember, this is only the beginning; we will get better. Please have patience. We are skilled players, who are evolving.”

Anjum Chopra, former Indian captain, had also questioned the constant need to reinvent the sport.

“I know that there have been some interactions saying let’s change the format and bring in some innovation – and that’s alright, as far we can keep it to the discussion points,” she had said. “I don’t think it should be done. Why do you need to tinker around with the game?”

Pandey suggested marketing the sport well – something Women’s CricZone also had opined – in order to ‘sell’ women’s cricket to a wider audience.

“Growth can also be achieved by marketing the sport well. We don’t have to tinker with rules or the very fabric of the game to attract an audience,” she tweeted.

“Why not have DRS, Snicko, Hotspot, all of the technical acumen and live broadcast for every game that we play anywhere in the world. Heavy investments at grass root levels, equal playing opportunities, zero discrimination etc.”

Both Matthew Mott, Australia’s head coach, and Ed Joyce, Ireland’s head coach, had spoken about not comparing women’s cricket with the men’s. Joyce said that women’s cricket is more about skill than power, unlike the men’s version. Pandey also urged everyone to do away with the comparison.

“Please, don’t compare women’s sport, women’s cricket, in this case, with men’s sport. We need to see it as a different sport altogether… A sport that 86,174 spectators turned up to watch on March 8, 2020 and several million watched live on their television sets.”

“They saw something special in us, and here’s hoping you do too!” she tweeted before ending it with “#championsinourownright”.

The 31-year-old’s tweets were welcomed by the cricket community, with several players – former and current, male and female – agreeing with her assessment of the health of the game.

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