And so it was that normal service was resumed in Guyana last night. You have an England cricket team that goes six months without winning a competitive match, then gets gifted one thanks to Duckworth, Lewis and John Dyson’s dodgy maths. (Although you can’t be too hard on him, bearing in mind that you virtually need a PhD in advanced calculus to read a Duckworth/Lewis chart.) Not surprising, then, that they were beaten fairly and squarely in the next match.
But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about the other England cricket team. The good team. The successful team. You know, the women’s team.
That was quite a feat, lifting the World Cup – a feat the women’s team have now achieved three times, as opposed to zero for the men’s team. And totally deserved by their performance throughout the tournament, with Claire Taylor as the outstanding batsman, Laura Marsh as the outstanding bowler, and a good all-round performance from everyone concerned. Not to mention that, in Charlotte Edwards, you’ve got as experienced and astute a captain as you could want.
Let’s not forget, either, that the women’s team also hold the Ashes, and in recent years have won a whole slew of series. I’m tempted to think that, if you put the England women’s team up against the England men’s team, Straussy and the boys would find it tough going.
None of this success, of course, has come out of the blue. The ECB has actually done quite well by the women’s game. Quite a lot of money has gone into it, and the lack of powerful vested interests has meant they have been able to experiment with structures. Moreover, you’ve got the appointment of Clare Connor, a highly successful England captain in her own right, to take charge of the setup – and, having put Clare in place, she’s been more or less left to get on with it, without being unduly hampered by board politicking. This is a recipe that’s actually worked.
So why was it that, unless you were a total cricket obsessive willing to get your coverage online, that it was almost impossible to follow the tournament? I don’t usually agree with Andy Burnham, one of New Labour’s more absurd ministers, but he did have a point when he was complaining about the lack of media coverage of women’s sport. If you broaden it out to include, for instance, the high proportion of women among the successful Olympians, yeah, it begins to look scandalous. And when you do get coverage, well, the male-dominated sports media aren’t very good at handling it. Women’s tennis, which I suppose is an exception in that it gets plenty of coverage, has got terribly bogged down in the marketing of its performers based more on their sex appeal than their athletic prowess. With the notable exception of Jeca Janković, it’s hard to think of any engaging personalities on the circuit – or if they are there, they aren’t coming through.
One would hope that, on the back of a big win in the World Cup, you’d see a sudden upsurge of young women interested in trying out cricket, the way clubs sprang up all over England after the 2005 Ashes. But what’s the point of a successful team if they remain virtually invisible?