As India and England fight it out for the Women’s Cricket World Cup final on Sunday, now is a good time to look at the impact the tournament has had on the women’s game. Even though it is a World Cup, the reach and viewership it achieves is critical for the health of the sport and this time, there is cause for celebration.
Over the years, the idea of improving the profile of women’s cricket has received enough lip service. Everyone involved, including the viewing public, has good intentions when it comes to women’s cricket but very rarely has there been any concrete evidence of support from those who follow the game.
This time, we have proof with the International Cricket Council releasing some impressive numbers regarding this year’s World Cup.
For starters, more than 26,000 tickets were sold for the final at Lord’s, which will make it the biggest crowd ever to attend a women’s World Cup match. All matches in the tournament were shown live for the first time ever; though it is incredible that it has taken until 2017 for this to happen.
And then we come to TV viewership. According to the ICC, at this year’s tournament “80 per cent higher global viewership is expected across the course of the event compared to the 2013 edition with a global TV audience reach of more than 50 million. (There has been a) 51 per cent increase in the UK TV audience (compared to 2013 edition), 47 per cent increase in Indian TV audience and 300 per cent increase in Australian TV audience”.
The rise in TV audience in India is impressive as the 2013 event was held in the country. The ICC also revealed that “in South Africa, the increase in viewership in comparison to the 2013 event after the first five broadcast matches was 259 per cent”.
The base for those stats is smaller than that for the men’s game, which is understandable. But the all-round growth in viewership and the coverage that the tournament has received across platforms is more the laudable because we now have sustained engagement from the most important component of the jigsaw – the end user.
This year’s women’s Big Bash League in Australia attracted an aggregate crowd of more than 100,000. Every match of the Big Bash was streamed live, and for free, for the first time. The numbers from Down Under point to a healthy appetite for the women’s game which is as important as support from national boards. No longer is women’s cricket forced to make do with a vague sentiment of support.
Does this mean all issues surrounding women’s cricket, be it pay parity or support from the boards, have been resolved? No. But now, the game has a tangible base from where it can demand a greater share of the pie for the efforts of its players.
Countries like Australia and England have taken the lead when it comes to providing financial security to its female players. India was the last major nation to announce central contracts for its women’s cricketers – they did so in 2015. The highest-paid England and Australian women’s cricketers get around $65,000 (Dh230,000) as a retainer, which is nearly three times what the Indians earn. Also, there is no clarity on the future contracts of Indian women’s cricketers. So issues remain, especially when it comes to a reduction in the yawning gap between the salaries of men’s and women’s players.
Even so, women’s cricket as a whole is moving at a decent pace and in the right direction. And credit must go to the average cricket fan who has invested a valuable commodity – time.
England and India will meet in the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup on Sunday at a sold-out Lord’s.
Here are five things to look forward to.
The two finalists met back on June 24, day one of the tournament, which was the curtain-raiser for both teams.
The result was a bit of a surprise, with India turning over the strongly-fancied hosts by 35 runs at Derby, with England taking only three Indian wickets before being dismissed for 246 themselves.
After an inauspicious start, Heather Knight’s side have rallied in style, learning from their false start and winning every match since. Will the previous result bring back bad memories or inspire a righting of earlier wrongs?
Nat Sciver earned plenty of attention for the ‘Nat-meg’ shot she produced against New Zealand, dexterously diverting a yorker between her front and back leg, but that trick shot is just one of her many achievements in the tournament.
She is the only player in the tournament to hit two centuries and – while she does not hold the highest aggregate or best average – her strike-rate is unmatched.
Her 318 runs have come at 115.63 per 100 balls, head and shoulders above anyone else among the top 20 run-scorers. For comparison, Mithali Raj and Tammy Beaumont, the final’s top two run-scorers, have been striking at 71 and 78 respectively.
After facing just 91 deliveries in her first five innings at the tournament, India batter Harmanpreet Kaur has come into her own. After a score of 60 against New Zealand in a virtual quarter-final, she dominated the semi-final victory over Australia, scoring an Indian World Cup record of 171 not out in 115 deliveries.
England already know all about the 28-year-old Punjab cricketer, who will play for Surrey Stars in this year’s Kia Super League, but there will be extra emphasis on her following her brilliance at Derby.
On the other hand, Harmanpreet will definitely believe that she can produce another classic innings at the home of cricket.
England’s new-ball pairing of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole haven’t found peak form at the start of the innings, with the latter’s most obvious match-winning turn coming when she hit the winning runs against South Africa in the semi-final.
A line-up that bats deep and taking pace off with the ball have been the main strengths for England, but the feeling remains that the pace duo will be itching to make a statement.
With 179 ODI wickets between them, the idea of leaving the job for others on such a grand stage will simply not appeal.
The impact of the competition has already been considerable, with strong sales, global interest and media coverage. But a classic encounter in front of a packed crowd at the game’s most historic arena could prove a real tipping point for women’s cricket.
There will be more eyes than ever before on the match, with the host nation and world cricket’s superpower competing against each other and a top quality contest could draw an army of new followers.
It's been a phenomenal tournament, and I can't help but think that for the women's game an Englahttp://sport360.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#nd vs India final is just perfect.— Henry Moeran (@henrymoeranBBC) July 20, 2017
England captain Joe Root played down concerns over his side’s misfiring top order after a comprehensive, series-levelling defeat to South Africa but kept the door open for changes ahead of the third Test.
After kicking off his reign with a handsome victory at Lord’s, Root saw his team humbled at Trent Bridge where they were skittled for 133 in 44.2 overs for a 340-run defeat on Monday.
Doubts over opener Keaton Jennings and Root’s Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance are growing rather than receding with each innings, with the pair making 44 and 85 respectively in four knocks apiece.
Root provided some support for the pair in post-match presentation, but hinted their positions were not guaranteed for the Oval Test.
“No, I don’t think it (the top three) is a concern. They just need some runs and to spend some time out in the middle,” he said.
“I’m sure if they get the opportunity to do that in the next game they will go on and make big scores. We’ll sit down with selection and make sure we’re happy with what we have going into the next one.”
Another player potentially looking over his shoulder is paceman Mark Wood.
Goodness me! ENG win last week & they're the greatest. Lose this weak & they're hopeless!— KP (@KP24) July 17, 2017
If you're going to lose, lose properly! 😉
The Durham player returned to the red-ball setup after a two-year injury-enforced absence at the start of this series but has managed just one wicket for 197 runs in two Tests.
Bowling coach Ottis Gibson suggested he had experienced some discomfort in his heel – not his troublesome ankle – but Root is hoping that issue does not develop.
“It’s been a tough week for Woody, really,” he said. “He worked really hard throughout the game and was unfortunate not to pick up many wickets but I can’t fault his efforts, the way he’s gone about it.
“In terms of fitness he came through quite well, so hopefully he’s fit for selection for the next one.”
With the win, South Africa leveled the four-match series at 1-1.
England, set a mammoth 474 runs for victory, collapsed to 133 all out in their second innings 40 minutes before tea on the fourth day.
No England batsman made a fifty in an innings where former captain Alastair Cook’s 42 was the top score.
England, who resumed on one without loss, lost four wickets before lunch and a further six before tea. Man-of-the match Vernon Philander led South Africa’s attack with three wickets for 24 runs in 10 overs, while left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took three for 42 in 12.
Duanne Olivier ended the match by taking two wickets in two balls to dismiss tailenders Wood and James Anderson.