As an avid reader of the Rust I often smile when reading the campaign running by my sport colleagues and sometimes wonder why they haven’t been attacked on social media or even reported to those authorities concerned with imposing “equality” upon Britain in the 21st Century.
Nevertheless, with the indulgence of the editor, today I am going to dip my exposed toe into the troubled water.
First, a declaration of interest.
That having been lodged, there was a period when I was a long-term member of my local village team, serving variously as a fixtures secretary, lower order batsman, occasional off-spin – I think it is called “Chinaman” – slow bowler (I am left-handed) and umpire … but not after the incident on 17th June 1994 when I gave our captain out LBW whilst momentarily distracted by a sparrow’s high-speed flight across the pitch and he never forgave me for it.
But to my point.
On Thursday this week – whilst working at my computer desk – for a couple of hours before and after lunch I tuned in to the Sky Sports channel that was broadcasting live coverage of the women’s Ashes Test match which had begun that day at Taunton.
In my experience those of us who enjoy watching cricket – whether in person at a ground or on television – tend to the view that those responsible for administering the game, whilst no doubt well meaning (good intentions, of course, come two a penny), are predetermined to be either half-witted or else one-eyed, incompetent and totally lacking in marketing and business competence … and quite possibly a combination of any or all of those … whilst also being totally devoid of common sense.
I find that when talking to devotees of bowls, croquet, track & field, football, boxing, golf, rugby league or rugby union [readers might care to add their own choices of other sports here] it is rarely long before the topic comes around to the theme that each of them would be far better off in every respect but for the inadequacies of those in charge of it.
And yet today I want to salute those in charge of women’s cricket whom (to me), having astutely identified its weaknesses and strengths, have rightly resisted the lemming-like charge of other sports to try and achieve “equality” between the genders by insisting that women get paid the same as men and then treating their versions of great world sports as being of equal merit with the men’s equivalent and therefore deserving of equal ‘like for like’ of media coverage and publicity/promotion.
Some in the international women’s game criticise the fact that full Test matches are so rarely played, presumably because of a residual attitude that Test cricket is the supreme version and therefore – to be equal – women must play Test cricket as often as the men do in order to be accepted by society as a whole as equal and equivalent in every respect.
Thankfully, by design or accident, those in charge of women’s cricket have been more practical and – dare I say it – sensible.
I think I am correct in stating that Ashes cricket series are mounted by playing a single Test match and then also a number of ODIs and/or T20 games and awarding a number of points for the winning thereof, duly weighted so that victory in the single Test match counts for several times the number of points to be gained in a single ODI, with the result of the series being decided by adding together the points accumulated by each team in total.
This works very well for the women’s game – as my experience this week amply demonstrated.
To be frank – irrespective of how much cod-importance is attached to the minute-by-minute developments in the game by the commentators and pundits (of which there are a large number on hand) and indeed by the men’s Test match level of quality television production and technical analytical devices deployed – women’s Test match cricket is a spectacle that barely reaches the level of watching gloss paint dry … if that comparison is not in itself a great disservice to gloss paint and its capacity to harden.
Yes, “the girls” enter the arena looking like bona fide athletes intent upon playing international class sport – loosening up, keyed up, short collars turned up, factor 50 sun tan cream besmirched across their faces, dark glasses mandatory, donned in cricket whites and England caps, stretching their limbs, every fielder involved rubbing the ball vigorously down their thigh as it makes its way back to the bowler etc. – but once the action starts it is classic Snoozeville.
The odd trundler can offer military medium but for the most part slow bowlers dominate, lobbing half-volleys to the Australian batsmen at a pace at which even a 10 year old girl playing rounders for the first time in her life would regard as easy-meat.
And that’s where the history and absurdity kicks in. Because it is a Test match the Australian batters – chewing gum, adjusting their boxes, tugging at their shirts and ‘gardening’ the pitch after every ball – are burdened with the combined weight of history, the importance of the occasion and the knowledge that they’ve somehow got to eke out the game for as long as five days – spend over after over either blocking every ball, or steering it carefully straight to a fielder.
Thus elsewhere the Brexit and the Iranian “tanker” crises rumble on.
And every onlooker knows that they’d see far more verve and excitement watching a boys’ Under 15 game.
[As of close of play yesterday – two days in – Australia stand at 341- 5 in their first innings in a match which England have to win to have any chance of annexing the Ashes].
See here for a report on yesterday’s “action” from Raf Nicholson that appeared overnight upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN