Monali’s (Patel) Musings: The Explosive Growth Of Women’s Sport Including Cricket!

Record crowds and viewership
are being witnessed at women’s
competitions across the globe!
The viewership for the 2021 WNBA Finals
was up more than 40% from just two years

87,197 spectators were in attendance and
17.4 million fans viewed the BBC One
broadcast for the Women’s Soccer Euro
2022 Final between England and Germany.
86,174 spectators were in attendance at
the Women’s T20 Cricket final between
Australia and India in 2020.

One would have to be clueless not to see
that Women’s sport is at a tipping point. A
once quiet affair witnessed by family and
friends alone is now starting to show just
how popular, in demand, marketable and
most importantly profitable it can be.

With an estimated 3.905 BILLION women
on this planet currently, just shy of 50% of
the population, it has taken far too long
for female athletes to get the opportunity,
respect and recognition in sport they
deserve. For far too long women’s sports
have been compared to men’s sports,
essentially being the reason for this disparity.

Without diving too deep into physiology, yes
there are obvious differences between male
and female bodies, and it is for this reason,
women’s sport should only be looked at and
compared to women’s sport. Comparing
and analyzing it any other way would be a
case of comparing apples to oranges.
So what’s new and exciting in the world of
Women’s Cricket?

In one of the more unlikely places you would expect to find a large presence of Cricket, Brazil is
spearheading the effort in South America. Cricket Brasil is the first ever country to announce full
time contracts for their women’s players well before their men’s players. They have realized the
potential for growth in women’s cricket and have taken the steps to invest heavily in their women’s
program. The program currently sees, their players train 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and hit the gym
2 hours a day, 4 days of the week. They were recently the only associate team invited to participate in
the Kwibuka Tournament hosted in Rwanda where they faced
multiple nations from Africa. Brazil is currently ranked
28th in the world in women’s cricket. Their Captain
Roberta Avery shared their goals and plans prior to the
tournament, simple putting it as:

“We want to get in the top 20 rankings
in T20s in the next five years,” Avery
stated. “We need to play more, we need to
compete more and now we are taking
those steps to achieve it.”

FairBreak, an annual privately-run tournament
was launched in 2022 by FairBreak International
based in Hong Kong and held in Dubai to improve
differences in pay, quality of play and
opportunity for women of full
member and associate nations.
Our very own Divya Saxena was the lone player
to represent Canada last year. The tournament saw big names such as Suzie
Bates (NZ), Stafani Taylor (WI), and Marizanne Kapp (RSA) playing
alongside players from various associate countries.

The 2023 tournament will be hosted by and played in Hong
Kong in April. The FairBreak invitational XI is an extension
to the program where the selected team will play 12 games
against England, Scotland, the Netherlands and Scottish

New Zealand Cricket joined their neighbours Cricket
Australia in announcing this year, that their men and women
will both be awarded equal pay. New Zealand’s women’s
cricketers will be paid the same as their male counterparts
after a “landmark agreement” was reached to close the
gender pay gap across all formats and competitions. From
August 1st, the women’s national team and domestic
women’s players will receive the same match fee.

The BCCI announced the Inaugural Women’s IPL to be
held in March of 2023, which will most undoubtedly be a
game changer for Women’s cricket in terms of exposure,
awareness, and financial investment. BCCI secretary Jay
Shah expressed multiple existing IPL teams have enquired
and expressed serious interest in owning WIPL franchises
hinting at providing the first right of refusal to existing
franchises. The news however late comes as a much
welcome sign for women who have been playing in the
WBBL, Women’s Hundred, and WCPL.

ICC has released the first ever Women’s Future Tours
Programme (FTP) from 2022 to 2025 seeing the top 10
sides get plenty of action in both home and away series in all
three formats of the game. It also sees an enhancement to
the ICC Women’s Championship (IWC) going to 10 teams
from 8 with the addition of Ireland and Bangladesh. Over
300 matches are scheduled in the 3-year cycle.

USA women’s U-19 recently won a bilateral series 4-1
against West Indies women’s U-19. A feat small by no
stretch of the imagination. Prior to this series, the USA
U-19 side was invited to compete in the CWI Rising Stars
U19 Championship held in the West Indies, in which they
came out winners. The tournament saw sides competing
from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad
& Tobago, USA, and Winward Islands. The USA U-19 side
is now in full preparations for the inaugural Women’s U-19
World Cup due to be held in South Africa in January of

Speaking of the first-ever women’s U-19 World Cup, it is
set to be played in South Africa in January of 2023. It’s a
massive opportunity for not only girls from full members
nations, but also from associate nations and for the first time
ever points to a strong player pathway for girls. It will be comprised
of 16 sides, 5 of which being an associate side.

An increasing number of women are taking on top leadership roles in
the governance, coaching and broadcast of Cricket worldwide, finally
taking the reigns! Debbie Hockley the president of New Zealand
Cricket, Holly Colvin the ICC Women’s Cricket Senior Officer, Lisa
Sthalekar the president of the Federation of International Cricketers’
Associations, to name a few of the top names involved in high positions
in Cricket. This number is set to increase considerably as the ICC now
looks to promote workplace gender equality.

With the explosion of women’s cricket globally, let’s take a look at
what is happening locally.

The conclusion of the women’s T20 nationals in Ontario this August,
saw a nail-biter of a final going down to a super over in which the Prairies
triumphed over Ontario. A real upset for Ontario being one of the
oldest and more established provinces for women’s cricket. Positively
enough though, it showed growth of the sport in other provinces.

All in all, it was a showcase of talent from across the country and
in good time to pick a squad for the upcoming South American
Championships being held in Brazil in October. Canada currently
ranks number 38 in the world, a sorry state for a county that once
dominated the America’s Region. Participating in the South American
Championships will certainly help their chances to move up the
rankings as the new system is designed to promote more gameplay to
improve team rankings.

However, Canada currently lacks a proper player pathway and a junior
program. It is because of this, that the USA women’s U-19 team was able
to get an automatic qualification to the world cup. It is now up to the
Canadian Administration to see what sort of plan to implement to
grow the game locally and succeed internationally. The pressure is
now on the Canadian administration to not only keep up with their
neighbours the USA but to try and exceed them. In fact, the latest ICC
AGM held in England this July was centred around making women’s
cricket a priority and making it the number one played sport globally.

The journey has been long, unfair many a time, and full of challenges for
women in sport, but there is a shocking amount of positive news that
the tides may finally be turning in favour of women’s sport. With the two
largest factors, marketability and profitability showing signs of positive
return on investment, there is every reason to believe women’s sport
is on the up and that current and future female athletes will be getting
rewarded for their hard work and dedication, while the trailblazers of the
past will look on proudly of what their sacrifices have achieved. As
for Canada, we are now against a race of time and the ever-expanding
and advancing world of women’s cricket. We have been late to get
out of the gates making the challenge even harder but the time to act
is now. The time to implement proper programs, pathways, coaches,
and selectors is now!

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