Club Cricket Conference

Wednesday, 16th June 2021

Lockdown Lessons Could Boost Women’s Game

By Richard Edwards

24 April 2020

The future for cricket at both the highest level and the recreational game has rarely been so uncertain but there are reasons to be optimistic.

In girls and women’s cricket – an area of the game that has grown exponentially in reason years – there’s a sense that lockdown might actually lead to the kind of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to help the sport continue its climb.

The growth in women’s sections at clubs up and down the country and an increase in the number of girls playing the game from an early age in both state and private schools has seen an explosion in participation.

One of the fears over the financial uncertainty that is currently gripping cricket is that investment in youth and women’s cricket might be cut back as clubs focus on what some might view as their core priorities, namely the survival and future of their first team.

But while that might be the case at some clubs, a sense of optimism still pervades that the innovative ideas that have occurred to individuals and sport at large during this difficult period will endure when the lockdown ends and life returns to something approaching normality.

“Across the board there’s a lot of fear at the moment but I think we’ll bounce back,” says Danni Warren, the head of women’s cricket at Middlesex. “I think during this period people have found just how important sport and exercise is for them.

“Personally, I think among all the challenges there are some really great opportunities coming up, especially in the women’s game, which is such a fast moving game at grassroots level.

“People have seen in the past few weeks the benefit of getting outside and spending an hour or more in the open air. That might be more attractive to them in the future and could see them looking at a new sport, like cricket, or maybe coming back to the sport having played it previously.

“I think there are plenty of opportunities. The ECB has confirmed its commitment to the five year strategy of transforming women’s and girl’s cricket. The funding that they’ve secured is going to be available, not just at the elite level but also for the entire pathway. There is investment we’ll be able to make in supporting clubs through this.

“The clubs that have already got a good model in place, yes it will be a short-term challenge, but I think they will be very proactive when they look at how they can come out the other side.”

Change has certainly been one of the major themes to permeate throughout this crisis and one of the most heart-warming aspects of the pandemic has been seeing how quickly and brilliantly people and businesses have adapted.

The recent women’s London Championship challenge between Surrey, Middlesex, Kent and Essex, with players racing off against each other for 30 minutets, is just one example. 

Other clubs are also doing everything they can to ensure that women’s cricket remains in the spotlight. At Bishops Stortford Cricket Club, there is also a hope that the sport can continue to develop and thrive across all levels of the game, despite this enforced hiatus.  

 It may impact our younger sides more as lots of those girls are early in their cricket careers and therefore missing this season could hinder their progress and enthusiasm,” says Sarah Walker, the club’s first XI captain.

“But the women’s World Cup before the lockdown gave them a good opportunity to see some High level women’s cricket. 

“We are hopeful that things will continue to go from strength to strength when the situation resolves but only time will tell.

“The majority of our playing squad are fully involved in cricket for the long term and hopefully that philosophy will be embedded through the youth system meaning that things will just continue as they left off in the coming months. It’s just a shame to lose out on opportunities to do something you enjoy but that can make you more hungry for success in the future.”

And therein, perhaps, lies the key to how much the womens’ game is impacted by the lockdown and the financial problems it is bringing. After all, nothing makes you want to play a sport more than having the chance to play that sport removed. The start of the season has been delayed but the expectation is that there will still be a club season in one form or another and when it does start, the levels of enthusiasm may well be at an all-time high.

Warren also believes that the whole thinking around women and girl’s cricket may also have changed.

“We’ve been talking for a long time about which format is the most attractive, what format do people want to play – are we losing people or are we not attracting people as a result of that,” says Warren. “All of those questions come to the fore at a time like this and you have to try and think of a way around it. 

“I see an equal amount of challenges but the opportunities are also there. The counties have the investment to help the clubs through this period and I think we’ll come out of this across all levels of the game a lot stronger.”