I am very pleased to say that I have had a lot of feedback to my piece below suggesting that the Women's County Championship needs to be extended from its current format of just eight fifty over games. I suggested the matches became home and away fixtures, resulting in a 16 match season.
Unlike Shane Warne I am not going to claim that it seems that you are all in favour of my ideas. Former England player Ebony Rainford-Brent took the time and trouble to blog back her response (http://ebonyjewelrainfordbrent.com/), which while liking the idea didn't see it as being very practical because
i) the girls wouldn't be able to fit it all in, given that they are in full-time work or studying
ii) the cost of travel/accommodation to away games
I am not sure that i) is a valid argument. I know a lot of guys that play club cricket who train twice a week and then play games all over the place every Saturday, just for the fun of it. I agree that they do not have to travel from Sussex to Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire, as the girls would have to do on occasions, but travelling a long distance possibly 3/4 times a season should not be that much of a problem, should it?
As for the cost I accept that this is an issue and its needs to be addressed centrally. Every women's county team needs to receive dedicated and direct central funding from the ECB to cover 1st XI travel and accommodation costs (where necessary) for the season. I have no idea how much central funding any of the women's teams receive at the moment and whether this goes directly to them or it is allocated through the county boards, who of course have the male side of the game to look after too. It cannot be beyond the wit of man (or woman) to work out a schedule of allowable expenses if for example Sussex are playing Yorkshire in Yorkshire, or Essex are playing Warwickshire in Warwickshire. Once the season's fixtures are known the allowances can be calculated and should be paid direct to the women's teams.
I accept that moving to 16 matches from the current eight might be a leap too far, although ultimately I would still like to see this number of games at this level. Perhaps the first phase should be to reduce the number of teams in the county championship to seven and play home and away games, meaning that initially there would be 12 games in the season. If this works then look to increase it to eight teams and then nine, in due course.
As for the Super 4s, if this is to remain as a "testing ground" for the England and England Academy players then I would suggest that this becomes an international competition with all the world's top players invited to take part. It would be fantastic to see Deandra Dottin, Stafanie Taylor, Suzie Bates, Amy Sattherthwaite, Meg Lanning. Jess Cameron, Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj, Mignon du Preez, Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, Lea Tahuhu, Jhulan Goswami, Ellyse Perry, Holly Ferling, Holly Colvin, Shanel Daley, Dane van Niekerk, Sana Mir and Eshani Kaushalya and the rest of the England squad members battling it out in three or four "franchise teams", in a short 50 over and T20 format competition. This would also be a great advert for the womens' game, and, if properly staged, would attract paying spectators, sponsors and maybe even the ultimate prize of television coverage. Wouldn't it be good to stage this here in England?
Ebony's other main concern was the fall-out rate of girls from the game. This is inevitable in a fledgling sport, which womens' cricket still is. But as girls can see the opportunities to play more meaningful and competitive games on a regular basis; the potential to make a career out of cricket; and the profile of the sport and the girls who play it increasing, so participation will increase and girls will be more inclined to stick with the sport and come back to it again later in life. It is a great game and those who leave it are missing out, and that includes you Ebz!