As long as the conversation keeps going, that’s all you can ask for: Katherine Brunt weighs in on the Hundred pay gap
Katherine Brunt has warned that equality will not happen overnight despite fresh concerns about the disparity between the men’s and women’s salaries in the Hundred. The veteran England fast bowler was speaking following comments made by England teammate Kate Cross about the negative impact on players at the bottom end of the pay scale in the new tournament.
According to The Daily Telegraph this week, Cross had said that some of these players, who are being paid significantly less than their male counterparts, could be forced to leave the competition.
On the eve of the Hundred, which gets underway with a standalone women’s fixture between Manchester Originals and Oval Invincibles at the Oval on Wednesday (July 21), Brunt was keen to stress the positives for women’s cricket.
“I can look at it in lots of different ways,” she says, “because I used to pay to play, and I used to only get expenses for a good eight years of my international career.”
“So, if I look at it in that way, and then you look at what the stats are now – the most women in cricket are being paid than ever before. If I look at it from that standpoint, then we’re doing very well.”
“And the wages aren’t anything to turn your nose up at, they’re good. Yes, they could definitely be better, and there’s gaps in it, but that happens all the time in every different field. And we’re definitely going to get better, this isn’t going to go the other way. This is only going to go up. I do feel for those girls, but it is a good chunk of change for one month’s work that they would never have seen before this year, ever. You could only dream about it, to be honest. So, you have to look at it from that angle too.”
The ECB have pledged to make the Hundred a ‘gender-balanced’ tournament with equal prize money for the men and women’s winners and equal prominence for both sets of players in the promotional material. However, in comments reported in The Daily Telegraph, Cross expressed concern that some players may be lost to the competition because they could not afford to play. She was reported as saying that the pandemic had exacerbated the problem as some players would not be able to pursue existing jobs because of strict COVID regulations in the Hundred.
Questions too have been raised about whether surplus funds could have been used to boost players’ pay packets after several big-name Australian players pulled out of the tournament.
Brunt though, points out that the fight for equality has been going on for hundreds of years and stresses the need to keep the focus on positive achievements, despite important questions about pay gaps.
“These things don’t happen overnight, but as long as the conversation keeps going, that’s all you can ask for. It’s when you keep quiet and you don’t do anything, you don’t say anything, that things don’t move forward. Because people are quite happy to keep going as they are unless you say something.”
“I think it’s great that girls are speaking out, and they’re brave enough to do that. But equally, sometimes the positive message gets lost in that, which is what has happened in this article is that it’s been spun a little bit, and we’re forgetting about the positive part of it, which I’m only going to bang on about because I’m here to play the Hundred and get on with that and do the best I can for my team, regardless of all the other things that are flying around.”
“But the important thing is that we are being paid. And yes, we are a way off the men, but that’s because the men bring in more crowds, they bring in more money, they bring in more press around the world.”
The future is bright though, she believes.
“Once we start playing these games, and we get this year in the bag, and we show that we can play these games alongside the men, then they will invest in us even more. But we need to keep proving this time and time and time again – but not to forget that positive message, which is that we’re all being paid more than ever before.”
Brunt is part of a Trent Rockets line-up captained by Natalie Sciver and featuring another England teammate in Sarah Glenn. Their campaign gets underway on Saturday against a powerful Southern Brave line-up. It will be Brunt’s first game at Trent Bridge, the major international venue in the East Midlands and home of county side Nottinghamshire. The fixture is part of a double header with the Rockets’ men’s side also facing up against Brave.
“It’s going to be great,” says Brunt. “It’s my first time ever at Trent Bridge, which is unbelievable. I’ve been playing professional cricket for 20 years, never played here. It’s awesome, brilliant ground, lovely facilities.”
“The boys are here at the same time as us. I’m watching Rash [Rashid Khan] bowl now. We’re part of something bigger and part of one team. Like you’re not just a spare part or a side piece, you’re it, you’re the ones that people are coming to watch and be entertained by! So, it’s brilliant, we’re all really excited.”
Trent Bridge saw a run fest in the recent men’s T20I between England and Pakistan in which the visitors posted a colossal 232 for 6 with England reaching 201 and falling short in the run chase. Brunt admits the prospect of bowling on that pitches daunting with the added pressure of getting used to new regulations.
“The boys are losing balls left, right and centre. It’s very much like a bowler’s graveyard at the minute. So, I can’t say I’m licking my lips ready to bowl on here, that’s for sure!”
“If anything, I’m thinking what’s the best-case scenario or worst-case scenario. Is eight an over going to be alright?” she says with a tentative smile.
“It’s a big challenge. And I like that. I like to be tested. No one likes to go for runs. But this is an even shorter format [than T20], it’s going to happen. You’ve just got to accept it and do the best you can. If you’re bowling to your field and you get hit for good shots, you could live with that.”
“So, we’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to think about it probably a little bit more. I think there’ll be more variations than ever before as well, and hopefully, not running over time because I do not want one less fielder in the outfield in the last five. That’ll be shocking! So, we’d better keep on our toes.”
Brunt, a veteran of 92 T20Is, has vast experience of short-form cricket and understands the pressure that brings.
“Anybody that’s played T20s on a big stage against awesome opponents, when all that pressure is on, it’s not a great place to be in sometimes, and so if that gets squeezed, it can be terrifying. So, we’re going to have to learn and learn fast.”
“You always think about time anyway, because you don’t get to breathe in T20. The captain is trying to talk to you, sometimes every ball. It can get chaotic, somebody is tapping you about and you either take it [captain’s advice] on board or it goes in one ear, out the other, or you get grumpy, or you’re mad, or you’re defending your pride or whatever. That gets all squeezed [in the Hundred] even more. So, I feel like some people could lose the plot,” she says laughing at her own reputation.
“It makes visualisation before taking the field all the more important and doing everything before a game to prepare. That’s even more crucial in a new team with plenty of fresh faces,” she says. “Because a lot of the stuff that you prepare for, often goes really wrong. So, you can feel quite on your own. And especially when you’ve got a new captain, a young team, these girls aren’t the England girls anymore.”
“Like, you’ve got to watch what you say, your demeanour. You’ve got to keep everybody positive and show people that you’re not losing your head as the oldest person on the team. It’s going to be a massive challenge. But I really do hope that we are one of the better teams in adapting to it and learning from it.”
Playing a new format will be about learning on the job for all teams. Brunt admits, too, that she still has yet to learn all of her teammates’ names.
“We’re all really excited. We really don’t want to mess up. But it is going to be carnage. People are going to have to be patient. We will get better, I promise you, but as of this point, I’ve still got four names to learn! So, you know, quick turnaround, we’ll get there.”
The aim of the new competition is to attract a new audience to cricket and using marketing and pop stars that appeal to young people to draw in those who may never have attended a game before or thought that cricket is not for them.
What has impressed Brunt is the ECB’s willingness to innovate. She thinks back to the T20 World Cup final in Australia last year which drew a record crowd to the MCG.
“There was 80,000 people there and that’s because they had Katy Perry headlining. Like, you need to think outside the box and do things like this. Yes, it costs money, but it brings in a hell of a lot of money. And it brings in a lot, lot more interest from so many different angles. That then that will act as a catalyst.”
“They [the pop stars] are appealing to the younger generation, and they’re going to want to pop in, because they’re here. And then they’ll be here and they’ll see what it’s about. And be like, whoa!”
“Watching this [game] live is 10 times different than watching it on TV, I can guarantee you that. So, you have to be here to experience it. And parents, you have to bring your kids because it is a mind-blowing experience for young children. Definitely, you’ve got to make that first step and actually get them here. So, these new little initiatives, these little changes are going to do that, hopefully.”
Playing double headers with the men’s teams may also expose fans to women’s cricket for the first time, helping to further the women’s game and reach more people, says Brunt.
“So, in terms of playing alongside the guys and being everything running along them, all our media, all our requirements, and things like that, it’s perfect for us, because also the men will be talking about us too, as we are talking about them. So yeah, we can feed off the back of all that and it’s just a win-win situation.”