England Women need vibrant pitches and regular game time to build on successful 2017
By Kalika Mehta - @Journo_K
Last Updated: 02/01/18 8:09am
England Women need vibrant pitches and regular game time to build on a successful and award-laden 2017, writes Kalika Mehta...
As the awards continued to roll in for England Women, you would be within your rights to believe that in 2017, women's cricket well and truly arrived.
England and Wales Cricket Board director of women's cricket, Clare Connor, who has worked tirelessly to earn an even platform for the women's game, was granted a CBE.
It follows on from the World Cup winners claiming their third accolade in three months, as they were named BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year having picked up the Sunday Times and BT Action Woman Awards.
In addition, four members of the 50-over champions' side - Knight, Beaumont, Sarah Taylor and Alex Hartley - were named in the ICC's one-day international Team of the Year.
The recognition marks a memorable year for the national side but as 2018 begins, the question is - what next?
While the romantic notion of supporting a sports team can have fans believing that the game is all about what is played on the field (or pitch, floor or ice rink), the reality is different.
As the song from the 1966 hit musical Cabaret has it, 'money makes the world go round' - and that stands true for all sports teams, in the men's and women's games.
One of the most astonishing statistics from the World Cup final remains that more people tuned in to watch England beat India at a sold-out Lord's than on average watched a Premier League match in the 2016/17 season.
With 168 English top-flight games shown live over the course of the previous season, the view that the England Women are now an undeniably marketable product stands to reason.
However, with interest high, the question now is what will help women's cricket take the next step, where they are no longer fighting for parity.
In a job description for the new Head of T20 Operations role for the ECB, the governing body explained it was "also exploring launching a women's competition, running in parallel with the same format and the same team brands" as the new men's eight-team competition that is due to begin in 2020.
The current six-team KSL is only due to run until 2019, and a joint T20 tournament for the men and women would help with team identity for fans, building a new and younger base of supporters.
Equally, there should be hopes that an expanded professional women's domestic T20 event will improve the chances of the county players playing competitive professional cricket for longer periods of the season, helping bridge the gap between the 18 international players and everyone else.
The swell of positivity across the globe following the World Cup remains important to capitalise on, and women's cricket strives on good pitches with a bit of bounce and fast outfields, allowing the bowlers and batsmen to showcase their skills to the best of their abilities.
For too long across the globe, women's matches have been played on slow turners that have led to low-scoring games that drift to a conclusion, rather than an exciting end that engages spectators from start to finish.
A prime example of this came in the 2016 Women's World T20 which was hosted in India, where sluggish pitches saw just 43 sixes hit throughout the duration of the 23-match tournament.
Equally, the announcement of a T20I tri-series in India in March, that Australia will also compete in, followed by an ODI series against the hosts is a fillip for Robinson, who continues to express the importance of not having his side only play a series once every six months.
England Women to tour India
England Women will play India and Australia in a Twenty 20 international tri-series in Mumbai in March and April.
While the women played three warm-up matches and nine World Cup matches this summer, the men's side just encountered one of their longest May-September periods, with players active in all formats competing in 54 days of cricket before stepping on the plane to Australia.
World Cup finalists India, meanwhile, will not play a competitive game of cricket between finishing runners-up to England on July 23 and February 5, when they begin an ODI and T20I series in South Africa.
The Indian men's side, in contrast, travelled to South Africa to play three Tests, six ODIs and three T20Is just 12 days after the conclusion of their home series against Sri Lanka.
If women's cricket is going to continue to grow, it will require the governing bodies from all countries to plough as many resources and as much time into their female sides as they do in the men's game.
At this moment in time, there are no excuses - these decisions cannot be put down to a lack of interest from the public or less popularity in the women's game because the figures continue to show that is not the case.
For England and women's cricket to take the next step, to grow, be competitive and continue to inspire, it needs to stand alongside the men's game in everyone's eyes, not in its shadows.
After all, 'the Nat-meg' is the most talked about shot of 2017 - who says women's cricket hasn't arrived?