The 1 models itself on the NFL Combine, with girls aged 12-18 put through a series of challenges to test their batting, bowling and fielding, with the aim of finding cricket's next best female all-rounder; the winner will receive a Kookaburra pro sponsorship
Wednesday 12 April 2023 15:12, UK
England legend Lydia Greenway is thrilled by the "massive platform" women's cricket now has as she spoke at the launch of The 1, cricket's search for the next best female all-rounder.
The competition models itself on the NFL Combine, with girls aged 12-18 put through a series of challenges to test their batting, bowling and fielding. The winner will receive a Kookaburra pro sponsorship.
Born out of lockdown, this third year of the competition will be hosted at Trent Bridge and features a partnership with East Midlands women's team The Blaze.
Greenway told Sky Sports News: "The experience The 1 provides isn't just about the playing part of it, they get the opportunity to have some media training, they get the opportunity to win a bat sponsorship… they start to understand: 'This is what it could be like to be a professional cricketer'."
Becoming a professional cricketer is now a legitimate career path for girls across the country.
Last month's inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) in India was another example of women's cricket providing a huge return on investment. The tournament reached over 50m viewers in its first week.
"If people aren't presented sport in a way that does it justice it won't get the backing or the following that it arguably deserves," Greenway added.
Mumbai Indians were crowned WPL champions, with England all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt - who was sold for £320,000 in the WPL auction - helping secure the team's seven-wicket victory over the Delhi Capitals in the final with a Player-of-the-Match-winning contribution of 60 not out with the bat.
As fielding coach for Mumbai, Greenway witnessed the tournament's success first-hand.
"Since retiring, that was an experience that was as memorable as any playing experience I've had," she said.
"It will be a part in time of women's cricket history, a massive stepping stone, an era that has broken barriers."
The 1 is an example of the grassroots events necessary to support the game's growth. Girls from across the county will not only be tested on their skill, but their ability to cope with the pressure of a high-stakes match.
"The trajectory women's cricket is on is quick and exciting," Greenway added. "In some ways that brings its own challenges in making sure the structures and foundations can keep up with that growth."
Last year's tournament was won by Yorkshire U18s' Rhia Sedha, an all-rounder whose dream is to play for England. Sedha also plays for Shadwell Cricket Club men's team, where she took 30 wickets last season.
Greenway added: "Some of the girls that enter The 1 are the only girls at their cricket club. I hope The 1 gives them the confidence and belief that they can compete equally with their peers."
From youth coaches to England stars, female representation is essential across the game.
At this year's Women's Ashes, matches are being held at international venues, including Lord's and The Ageas Bowl, for the first time. This equality of platform has led to record-breaking ticket sales, with over 55,000 sold.
"There's a massive platform for women's [cricket] now, a platform to showcase skill, I think that's really important," Sedha said.
"As well as a platform for new girls coming through, the facilities available, there's loads more women's coaches."
The Hundred has also been a revolutionary step, with men's and women's matches being held on the same day at the same venue. Fans who'd only been exposed to men's cricket were suddenly introduced to the women's game in a fast and exciting way.
"Everyone who I've spoken to has said the women's part of The Hundred was probably the best part of The Hundred being introduced," said Greenway.
From The Hundred to the T20 format and The Ashes, no form of women's cricket is excluded from its unprecedented growth. The cricket world that the girls competing in The 1 will enter into is an exciting unknown.
This year's winner may become England's next star, or, perhaps more importantly, they will cultivate a love of cricket that will last the rest of their life.