I've been following women's cricket for more than 10 years and I have been blogging and tweeting about it for more than two, with the aim of raising the profile of the sport. It is amazing to see how far it has come in that relatively short space of time, with no great thanks to me, but by the efforts of the ECB, some of the media and especially the girls that play.
But clashes with the men's game put the media coverage into perspective. England's tour to New Zealand will go almost unreported in the press, due to the fact that the men's World Cup is also being played in Australia and New Zealand at the same time. BBC's TMS will cover the first two ODIs live on the radio, and I hope to provide some updates on games after that for radio listeners, but I have failed to convince any of the written press (tabloids, broadsheets or cricket mags) to take any match reports from the games. There will be match reports and photos on the ECB website and, of course, on this blog, which I hope will reach the people who are interested in the tour. Reaching a wider audience is not going to happen with this series.
The flip side is that England's next series is against the Aussies in England and full coverage of the entire series will be provided on the radio by TMS, and Sky will be showing all the games live, including the four day Test. That is fantastic news. The concept of the Women's Ashes Series - three ODIs, three T20s and a Test - has been a huge marketing success. Each game in the series has meaning and context. The fact the series is against the Old Enemy and that they are the number one team in women's cricket at the moment, will mean the coverage and the interest will be intensified.
The ICC WC has not, and will not, reach those peaks of interest, particularly in England and Australia, as both teams are expected to win most of their games and thereby qualify easily for the World Cup in 2017 (The top four teams automatically qualify. In fact it is being held in England so I think England would qualify automatically come what may). What the ICC WC has done is to create a "tournament" in which all of the top eight countries in the world have to play one another over a three year period and it already seems to be bearing fruit for the likes of South Africa and Pakistan, who have claimed some notable victories. The pressure is on though for teams such as India and New Zealand. Failure to make the top four is unlikely to mean they will not be at the World Cup (they can still qualify through a secondary tournament involving smaller countries), but it will make life very uncomfortable. After England New Zealand are due to play the Indians in India!
As it is the White Ferns find themselves bottom of the ICC WC table and they must be favourites to stay there given their recent form, and recent results against England (they have not won an ODI against them since 2010). Overall New Zealand have won about half of the 278 ODIs they have played, but in the last three years they have lost 22 out of 32 games with one no result. They lost all four ODIs against West Indies on their last tour and failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last March after defeat to South Africa. But they do have the advantage of playing at home, and the fact that most of the England team have not played a competitive game since September (Edwards, Knight and Taylor being the exceptions having wintered in Australia). They have some class batting in Suzie Bates, the in-form Amy Satterthwaite and Sophie Devine, but their bowling looks weak. It is interesting that 14 year leg-spinner Amelia Kerr was equal top wicket taker (with Ireland's Eimear Richardson) in the domestic T20 competition (10 wickets in five games) and second in the 50 over competition (17 wickets in 10 games) behind off-spinner Frances Mackay (20) (who has not made the White Ferns squad!). England will need to hit the ground running after just one warm-up game against the Northern District Women on Saturday. As professionals you would expect them to do so! Stayed tuned and follow my twitter feed (now called @womenscricblog) for more on the series.
ICC Women's Championship Table
|South Africa Women||6||3||2||0||1||7||+0.334||852/216.1||796/220.4|
|West Indies Women||6||3||3||0||0||6||+0.584||1128/257.3||1111/292.4|
|Sri Lanka Women||6||1||4||0||1||3||-0.347||861/226.0||927/223.0|
|New Zealand Women||3||0||3||0||0||0||-1.712||392/150.0||465/107.3|