Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Time to extend the Womens' County Championship?

As I am sitting here trying to put together a preview of Division One of the Women's County Championship upcoming season I am struck by the fact that the girls play so little cricket.

The County Championship is the best level of cricket that most of the girls get to play at (in fact once they are 18 it is the only level) and it is where they need to hone their skills as cricketers and learn the subtle nuances of the game. Club cricket purely for women and girl's teams is at a very basic level. There are very few clubs (although I accept the numbers are increasing) and just not enough players to make teams that are competitive. In fact quite often there are not enough to make a team at all. Many club games are called off when one side cannot get a team together. True some girls will play in men's teams, but these are very much the exception. There is still a huge amount of prejudice against women playing for men's teams. The attitude in larger clubs seems to be that they are not going to make it to the 1st XI and therefore clubs are wasting their resources in investing time and effort in a girl, who will only play 2nd or 3rd XI cricket at best. None of them will admit this to your face of course, but it happens.

There are nine teams in Division One of the Championship this year and they will each play each other just once during the forthcoming season - just eight fifty over games, if the weather is kind to them. I know the weather last year was atrocious, but Essex managed to get to the final of the competition (I am not sure why a league needs a final, but more on that later) playing just two games throughout the entire season. Sussex, who played and won five games did not make it to the final as their average points per game - the way the standings are decided - was lower than Essex's, who had scored maximum bonus points in each of their two victories.

I would like to see the girls play each other home and away during the season. That would be 16 matches. That in my view would be a true county championship and there would be no need for a final. Whoever finishes at the top of the league after 16 matches will deserve to be called the champions. I would also like to see the points system changed to move away from an average number of points per game system, which is not used anywhere in the men's game that I can see. Straight win and tie points, plus bonus points. No points if you don't play. Average points encourages teams to play lesser opposition and not to play games they may lose or get fewer bonus points in. Teams have to be encouraged to play.

The major argument against extending the number of fixtures will probably be cost - pitch hire, umpires, travelling, etc. My response would be that the counties and the ECB simply have to find the money. Perhaps it is also time to scrap the Super 4s tournament as well and use the money elsewhere? The England, England Academy and England U19s players (who make up the bulk of the Super 4s players) should have their own extended international fixtures at the appropriate level, rather than taking another three weekends out of the Championship cricketing calendar.

Another argument is that it would not fit in with the England players who have a home series to play in each summer. Currently the Championship stops while this takes place - for example there are no County Championship games after 14th July this year (except the final!) because the Australians are here in August playing England in three ODI, three T20s and the one and only Test Match that the women now play. In my view this is detrimental to the development of all the other players below England level. The Championship should continue and the counties that rely heavily on international players, for example Kent (5) and Sussex (4), would have to find players to replace those that they lose on England duty. It would also actually even the Championship out more - Kent and Sussex have contested every final for the past 10 years, with the exception of last year when Essex made the most of the bad weather.

There is no doubt that the technical skill levels of women cricketers is getting better and better each year, but they now need to play as much competitive cricket as they can, at a decent level, to improve their game play and their mental toughness. Arguably England may have won both the games they lost narrowly at the World Cup with a bit more game time behind them. Come on ECB let's give the girls more cricket!



  1. I'd go the other way... personally! As you say, more competitive cricket is needed; but the county games are about as competitive as Scottish football. (I was at the T20 finals day last year, and honestly Sussex could have won it with their laces tied together. SJT didn't even get to bat in the final, if I recall correctly.)

    I'd extend the S4s, and make them into genuine "franchises" - teams that supporters can follow and build loyalty to - like an IPL for women's cricket. How cool would that be?

    (I know you personally have county loyalties, MD - and I love my traditions as much as the next man, but w's cricket doesn't have to be hung-up on the history of the men's game; and honestly, if we were designing the men's game anew, would we even DREAM of starting with counties?)

  2. I think county championship needs more investment. You are talking about T20 comp which is a different kettle of fish. I'd like to see more T20s played as in Aus on day before and/or after county champ games throughout season.

    As for extending S4s it would be great to try and get all the best in the world here for a week say and play T20 and 50 over tournament between 4 great sides - SKY are you reading this??

  3. Sorry, but you are talking about 50 over games right? Wouldn't the money be just as well invested in the creation of a First Class competition?

  4. I don't think the women's game is ready for a 4 day county championship. It would be good for us cricket puritans, but it just could not pay its way. For the time-being 50 over cricket is the way forward, preferably played at county grounds - more cricket for the members to watch!

  5. Don't forget that, unlike the men's competition, the women mostly have to fit all their matches around full-time (non-cricketing) jobs or full-time education. Whilst I'd love to see more cricket, playing 16 county matches over the season would mean that county players got little or no club cricket. Now, that might not matter in many people's view, but taking all the best players out would have a seriously weakening effect just when the club system is beginning to improve. Not sure what the solution is - we're some way off a professional women's cricket set-up!

  6. Scott Rollings4 March 2013 at 13:59

    I'm relatively new to supporting the Womens form of cricket, but reading your initial post Martin, I can't believe the county format. Its pretty pathetic in all fairness, because, as you said, its the peek of the womens game (without internationals). The only way the county women of England are going to become any better or gain the respect they deserve, is if they play in a league that enables them to. Playing each other just once is ridiculous, Ive played most sports in different leagues (no matter what standard) and it ALWAYS consists of playing home and away.

    In my opinion, the ECB need to invest more into the game. As you said Martin in an earlier comment, I also don't think the womens game is ready for a 4 day county championship. But to make the County championship a "proper" league wouldnt take a great deal of effort from the ECB. Im sure theyre are plenty of people that would happily; umpire, score and prepare pitches for them.

    Another thing that would boost the womens county awareness and profile, would be to introduce T20 double headers with the mens games (where applicable). I know its a long shot and would very difficult to fit them in with work and education for the women, but surely the more cricket the better. They did this last year with a couple of the International games, where the women played before the men did. This would surely have an impact because you'd have people going into the grounds earlier to watch it and would appreciate that the womens game is still played to very good standard.

  7. Can you include Uganda/Kenya in your next analysis? I've posted lots of stuff about these two East African cricketing nations on Have a look and see, women's cricket is on the up and up in Africa! Thanks.

  8. You mention the reliance on international at county level, the same applies in the 1XIs of the women's game and their reliance on County players. When there are county games (& Super 4s etc) the club teams are decimated. At all levels the number and scheduling of games is restrictive. That is why the better players at all levels have to go looking for more cricket (in the mens game usually).

    Just a suggestion, how about a two day game (Sat & Sunday) with 4 innings at County level? Could that not help with the longer form of the game?