Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Farewell to Lane and Test Cricket?
It has been quite a start to the week for Women's Cricket news.
The first bit of news was that Mark Lane was to stand down as England Coach. He has been in the job for five years and presided over a team which in 2009 held the Ashes, were World T20 and World Cup (ODI) holders. It does not get much better than that. In 2012 they lost in the T20 final, despite being the best team in the tournament. They played one bad game - the final - and they only lost that by four runs.
This year they gave up their World Cup holders position after a rather sporadic set of performances and losses to Sri Lanka and Australia - both games they could and, probably, should have won. Hardly a disaster, but not what England and Mark Lane, in particular, would have wanted.
It will be interesting to see who they get in to replace him, particularly with the Ashes (Points) Series looming. I had thought that this might be Lane's last hurrah. Win this highly publicised series and go out in a blaze of glory, making way for another to build to the next T20 World Cup. If the squad is fit then he had a team to win the series, but there are doubts about some key players - Katherine Brunt (yet to play a game this year); Anya Shrubsole (limited bowling so far this year); Laura Marsh (shoulder surgery after World Cup); Sarah Taylor (recent knee injury). A team without Brunt and Shrubsole would look weak in the bowling department, and there are no obvious replacements sitting in the wings at this time.
England have also relied massively on Charlotte Edwards to score their runs. Sarah Taylor is a class act, but she had a dire World Cup. She needs to take over Edward's role as the mainstay of the England batting, but England need to find another two batsmen to give them the strength they need if Edwards and Taylor fail. I hope that the new coach will take the chance to put a few new names in the team for the series against Pakistan at the beginning of July, and maybe give one or two of them their chance against the Aussies, although I don't expect to see wholesale changes. Mark Lane will be a tough act to follow and we might need to give the new boss this summer to settle in.
The second piece of news was that the Women's Ashes will now be contested over all three formats of the game, with points being awarded for the Test Match (6), 3 x ODIs (2) and 3 x T20s (2). This was no great surprise - Syd Egan had mentioned it on his blog back in March (http://samebat.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/womens-ashes-one-series-or-three.html), and Sarah Taylor had referred to it on a TMS interview - but it has caused a bit of a stir. The reality is that a one-off Test Match for the Ashes is a nonsense and something had to be done.
The girls want to play more Tests and would have loved a three match Test series, but if you are talking about bums on seats, television and radio coverage, and raising the profile of the women's game, then this was not the way to go. Purists will hate it, but it means that the "Ashes" tag can be used throughout the summer, which should prolong the interest.
I think it is a good idea, but I am concerned that the weighting of the points is skewed. Six out of a possible 18 points for the Test Match is too much. I appreciate that they want to reflect the importance of Test Cricket, but given that 10 points will win the Ashes (only 9 required for Australia to retain them), not losing the Test Match will become more important than winning it, particularly as it is the first match in the series. I hope I am wrong, but I think both sides would be happy to draw the Test rather than being 6-0 down going into the ODIs and T20s. I think three or four points for the Test would have been enough. I would also have liked to see the Test as the last match of the series - a fitting climax to the series. It will be interesting to see how the series pans out, but I applaud the initiative.
The final bit of news was that Katherine Brunt was named England Women's Player of the Year, alongside Matt Prior for the men. It is the third time that she has won the award and it is thoroughly deserved for her hard work and her heart-on-the-sleeve approach to the game and her performances for England. Let's hope she has it in her to produce a few more yet.