The cricketing world is constantly shifting… and it needs to do so to keep up with ongoing developments, looking to engage new audiences and re-engage with its current audience. After the England Women won the World Cup in July 2017, there is certainly a new audience out there. That group of players have changed cricket in England and indeed globally. They believed.
Having personally been involved in women’s cricket for the last decade, it is amazing to see the deserved rise in interest in women playing cricket. What a superb sight to see Lord’s cricket ground full for the final (over 24,500 fans). It is a stark contrast to even just a few seasons ago, seeing England play with no more than a few hundred people in attendance. There was certainly no hope of any domestic women’s cricket being played on the main pitch at Lord’s before the World Cup final. How things have changed. Middlesex played an exhibition match against the MCC in April that would not have happened if it were not for the amazing World Cup the year before.
There is still however a very, very long way to go before there is any sign of parity between male and female players. The gap between international cricket and the Kia Super League is still a step way too far for too many English players. Yes, there is progress, investment and expansion of the league - that's encouraging - and yes there are plans for future development and expansion, however unless women’s county cricket is recognised and used as a viable vessel for these players to play ever improving and competitive cricket, I fear the challenges will remain longer than is necessary.
County cricket performances are largely swept under the rug, if acknowledged at all. You have young talented age group opening batters that end up batting at 9 in the senior county side. What is the point? If she is an opening batter, then have the confidence to play her in that spot or pick someone else. There are, however, players that are coming through in world cricket. New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr broke the highest score ever for a female player scoring 232 against Ireland. She believes and so does Haidee Tiffen, her coach.
'It's important to have role models for these girls. England's Jenny Gunn is a great example too. She won the World Cup with the England Women's Team in 2017, and has scored the most T20 caps for England out of both the men's and women's teams. It shows them that they can do it too.'
Challenges are laid down and are overcome. Records made to be broken. The White Ferns and England both broke the world record for the highest T20 score on the same day. Five teams have surpassed 260 in T20 cricket at this stage. The England Women’s Team managed 250 just a few weeks ago. Soon there will be a day when that record will also be broken. I do hope that we see a score of 300 soon and would be surprised if it did not happen.
Turning to the men for a bit, on 12 March 2006, Australia and South Africa ushered in a new era in One Day International Cricket. Both teams scored over 400 runs for the first time in a 50 over international fixture. Scores of 400+ in ODI’s have now been passed a further 17 times since then, with England currently topping the charts having scored 481 against Australia in June.
What has seen the current crop of England men’s players perform well in one day cricket is ultimately down to a number of factors. No one solution. The One Day and T20 sides are enjoying playing cricket. They trust each other and different individuals put their hands up in different matches. Hales, Bairstow, Roy, Buttler and Morgan have all scored decent runs in the summer and have kept the crowds rolling in and entertained. If the crowds are entertained, you are generally performing well!
In conversations with numerous international coaches over the last 12 months, it is clear that what they are looking for is players who want to play their own way and have the ability to adapt when necessary. Good coaches don’t want clones. They believe in people.
Getting the best from your players at any level hinges on a multitude of factors simultaneously. One of the key ingredients however is undoubtedly a belief in each other. Coaches in players, players in support staff. Self-belief comes from within and someone believing in you does not go unnoticed. Experience, time and exposure to positive influences all contribute to believing in your ability. In the end though, you get what you focus on. Confidence is key! Just ask Jos Buttler. No one would have even given a second thought to a player who is perceived by many as only able to play one way. Yet, he is undoubtedly England’s best player currently. His success comes down to belief, confidence and being free to express himself.