A Brief Starter
If there was ever a year that was literally a roller-coaster ride, it was 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic had adverse effects on millions of livelihoods, women's cricket had its share of highs with the T20 World Cup in the first quarter. Unfortunately, those highs were short-lived, and the subsequent quarters only got worse.
Just like the millions of people who did not have the privileges of the elite class, women's cricket, which was in the shadow of the men's game, was hit harder during the pandemic. This, after making significant strides as a product in the last few years. Former Indian captain Shantha Rangaswamy even said the game has been pushed back by at least a year.
Nevertheless, we are almost nearing the end of 2020, and with sight of a vaccine on the horizon, a clinical cure for the pandemic is not too far. Hopefully, things shall get better in 2021. When we are hoping for good things to happen, we might have to take a few steps forward and try a few things that we always wanted to.
So, here we are, starting a fortnightly newsletter where we cover everything that has happened in and around the women's game during a previous couple of weeks. Worry not, as it will not be like those regular news wraps that pile up in your mailbox only to be cleared in bulk. It will be, mostly at least, a feel-good read that puts a smile on your face. Something that brings your attention to stories that flew under the radar and gives you a perspective. Now, enough with the intro, let's jump in.
The Main Course: Remember The Date - April 3, 2022
One of the first blows as a result of the pandemic was the postponement of the 2021 Women's World Cup to 2022. The decision by the ICC was received with mixed reactions from the players. While South Africa skipper Dane van Niekerk shared her disappointment about the decision, the big names in Indian cricket remained unperturbed.
When former Australia allrounder Lisa Sthalekar expressed concerns about the senior players who could retire in a year or two, India captain Mithali Raj replied, “My eyes are fixed firmly on the trophy. With all niggles recovered, mind and body fresh and stronger than before, I am definitely looking at World Cup 2022.” The veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami too said that she is motivated for Mission 2022.
Well, Goswami now has the dates for her mission as the ICC has finally announced the schedule for the Women's World Cup 2022 in New Zealand. The hosts will take on one of the teams that comes through the qualifiers in the opening match on March 4, 2022, while India will play their first match a couple of days later against another qualifying team. The eight teams will play against each other once, with the top four qualifying for the semifinals. The final will be be held on April 3, 2022 at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch.
In the brilliant Netflix documentary The Last Dance, that follows the journey of Chicago Bulls in their pursuit of a sixth NBA title, one can experience the thrills of ups and downs that Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Scottie Pippen go through before ending their stint with the Bulls on a high. Whether the revered Indian stalwarts will emulate that success in the upcoming global tournament, which could be their swansong, is something we will have to wait and see. April 2nd was a lucky date for Indian cricket nine years ago. Can April 3rd be that too?
Bigger Audition for #TheBigDance
Even if you aren't an avid follower of women's cricket, we’re sure you caught glimpses of what happened in the T20 World Cup 2020. No, we are not going to discuss the heartbreak Indian fans suffered on March 8, 2020. It is about the joy that Thailand's presence in the tournament brought. They showed why cricket has to become a global sport sooner than later.
Well, brace yourself. We might have more of it in the next edition of the tournament. No, wait. Don't get too excited. The number of teams that are participating in the actual event is still the same as it was in 2014. It's the countries that participate in the regional qualifiers that have been increased to 37, with eight new entrants.
Bhutan, Botswana, Cameroon, France, Malawi, Myanmar, Philippines and Turkey will be making their debut in an ICC event. The qualifying rounds for the T20 World Cup 2023 will kick off with the tournament in Europe that is scheduled to happen in August 2021 in Scotland - news that is likely to make Scotland head coach Steve Knox happy.
Can Hemp halt the momentum of Proteas?
Ever since that iconic T20 World Cup final at the MCG, only Australia, New Zealand, England and West Indies have returned to international cricket among the full-time members. Pakistan and South Africa are very likely to be the teams to play next unless something drastic happens as it did with the England men's team in South Africa.
Pakistan will be touring the rainbow nation in January 2021 for three ODIs and as many T20Is, and this time they have a full-time head coach in David Hemp. When Hemp got the job, he told us that his priority would be building relationships and trust with the players. Having experienced success in the Australian domestic system first-hand, Hemp stressed the significance of investing and building an all-round structure for the players.
While he might have had some experience of playing for Free State in the 1990s, it would be interesting to see how Hemp fares in his first international assignment as the head coach of Pakistan.
Job security is essential, isn't it?
On one hand, teams like Scotland and Pakistan are slowly attempting to build strong systems, and on the other, there is the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) setting a new standard for the women’s cricket fraternity... Recently, the ECB provided full-time professional domestic contracts to 41 cricketers in addition to the 17 internationals who are centrally contracted. Similarly, Cricket Ireland included 13 new players in its academy for 2021.
No matter what your occupation, to feel supported and enjoy a sense of security in one’s job is certainly crucial. If anything, it is more important for an athlete whose career can sometimes seem so fickle, with the uncertainty of age and injury always looming over their heads. In that sense, the steps taken by the ECB and Cricket Ireland should earn them a pat on the back.
Your nuggets for the day
- The latest update on the ongoing administrative disputes in Cricket South Africa is the suspension of the acting CEO Kugandrie Govender on disciplinary grounds with relation to the allegations of misconduct during her period as chief commercial officer of CSA and as acting CEO. Pholetsi Moseki, CSA chief financial officer, will be filling-in in her absence.
- There seems to be no end to the growing cricket connection between the United Arab Emirates and Indian cricket since the pandemic struck. First, it was the Men's Indian Premier League, followed by the Women's T20 Challenge, and now a team from God's own country featuring players from Kerala, Meghalaya and Karnataka is travelling to the UAE to play six friendly matches as a part of the 'For her' initiative. The idea shouldn’t come as a shock considering the Kerala diaspora who live in the Gulf.
- After playing their part in the success of the Women’s Big Bash League and the Women’s T20 Challenge, the South African cricketers finally have a chance to play some cricket at home. The Women’s Super League T20 competition featuring four teams captained by Nadine de Klerk, Sune Luus, Lara Goodall and Tumi Sekhukhune has begun.
- Meanwhile, their African neighbours Zimbabwe and Namibia will have to wait till January 2021 to resume international cricket. Although Zimbabwe did have a domestic tournament, the home series against Namibia will mark their return to international cricket after 20 months.
Did You Know?
India ODI captain Mithali Raj has been nominated for the ICC Player of the Decade award. In the period that is considered for the award, she has scored 3052 runs from 89 ODIs at 51.72. She is fifth in the list in terms of ODI runs scored in the decade. Shajin Mohanan S explains how the other nominees stack up here.
Can you believe that Mithali, the all-time leading run-scorer in ODIs, at one point feared that she would be a ONE SERIES WONDER? Read here what the legendary batter told Ananya Upendran about her sources of motivation, the evolution of the women’s game, how she has managed to keep pace with the changes, her captaincy career.
You can also watch her birthday interview below:
Through the lens
Well, it might have happened in the fag end of November, but it is worth talking about the viewership records of the finals series of the sixth edition of the Women’s Big Bash League. More than a million viewers tuned in for the finals series which is only second best to the fourth season records. The final between Sydney Thunder and the Melbourne Stars witnessed an average audience of 428,801 tuning in.
Some Dessert to sign off
- A few awards were given out over the last couple of weeks. The Australian team bagged ‘The Don’ award at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame 2020 Awards, Germany skipper Anuradha Doddaballapur won the DCB 2020 Player of the Year award and Thunder allrounder Natalie Brown was selected as the women’s Player of the Year at the Lancashire Cricket’s Player of the Year awards for her performance in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
- The 25th edition of the Women’s National Cricket League is scheduled to begin on January 15, 2021. While Tasmania will take on Victoria in the first match, South Australia will be facing New South Wales and Western Australia will be up against ACT Meteors.
- The Uganda Cricket Association Elite T20 League came to an end where the Damani Hurricanes were crowned champions as they won three of the five-match series against Challenger Blizzards, who salvaged a consolation victory in the fifth match.
I suppose that’s it for this time. We’ll get back to you in the New Year with a few more interesting stories to share. Merry Christmas!