Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cricket's better half

I've spent the larger part of the past two weeks with my two favourite ladies - my wife has just given birth to a beautiful little princess and I've had the chance to watch the two of them bond - priceless! It's given me the opportunity to reflect on the part women play in all our lives every day, and the influence they have at every turn.

Do we pay them the same reverence in cricketing circles? In the male dominated corridors of our great game (thanks, cricketsjk) has the old boys' network shown them the requisite respect?

No longer do we live in the male dominated societies of the 1920s and '30s. A woman's place is not in the kitchen or typing the dictated notes of her male superior - many would say they're on a surge. Why should cricket be any different?

Whilst I grew up enthralled by the deeds of Crowe, Hadlee, Cairns and Jones, and lapped up every snippet of the all-conquering Windies though the 1980s and '90s, there was another less fancied but perennial constant. Debbie Hockley was a cricketing pioneer; a world class batter who dominated the women's game. Through 21 years Hockley dismantled all comers at international level and was part of New Zealand's World Cup winning White Ferns in 2000 - she still holds the record for World Cup runs with 1501. She was a fantastic cricketer - gender is not important.

Lesley Murdoch, a dual New Zealand cricket and hockey international, was one of, if not, the first woman to commentate on men's cricket on our airwaves. She still commentates on a number of first class matches every season and it's a delight to listen to her views on New Zealand Cricket and the issues facing our game. Murdoch has no need to compete with her male peers; she is simply a commentator bringing our summer game to life.

Most of my private life is just that, but I met my wife because of her love of cricket, so women in cricket hold a special place in my heart. One of my work colleagues, a young South African, sums up what I love about women and cricket. Unlike many of my mates who become emotive, and irrational, when discussing players and issues, she tends to consider her response before jumping in with both feet - she is as knowledgeable and passionate as anyone I debate cricket with. She doesn't conform to the negative, and misguided, stereotype that women trivialise players on their physical attributes - the only attributes discussed are how Kallis struggled to complete his action when he bulked up or how Steyn positions his wrist behind the ball for different deliveries. Watching her discount the snide comments of her peers with cricketing knowledge and insight, not cutting personal remarks, is a thing of beauty.

I don't raise these examples to illustrate that the occasional woman has cricketing nous; I do so because they are real examples that gender need not come into our game - women are not islands in the sea.

Others? Really? They're Women's Internationals
I know men (or boys, in actuality) who won't even read cricket pieces by women because they're women - Philistines! My advice would be to take a minute to read their thoughts and judge them if you will but judge them against their peers, cricketing writers, not as a separate species. And a quick note to ESPNCricinfo – women’s fixtures are not Others, they are Women’s Internationals!

I'm new to the world of Twitter but have been amazed at the number of women writing, and tweeting, on our great game. These are some of the best - follow them on Twitter and have a read of their blogs:

@FirdoseM – Firdose Moonda is the real deal! She is ESPNCricinfo’s South African correspondent and a guaranteed great read. She doesn’t blog, she writes for a living.

@mspr1nt - Ant Sims is a fantastic South African blogger, and a self-described ‘female cricket disciple’. You can read her thoughts on WicketMaiden, a website that promotes the tagline – balls to the wall and no balls at all.  Like me, the Windies hold a special place in her heart – if you’re ever looking for comment, just mention Chris Gayle. For those who like statistics, Ant’s infographics are well worth a look.

@lemayol - an obsessive follower of Northern Districts and the Somerset CCC, she will discuss Kane Williamson at any opportunity, with aplomb. @lemayol has just launched a new cricketing agony aunt column, Miss Cricket, on Alternative Cricket - email her for all the answers to your cricketing dilemmas.

@legsidelizzy  – with over 5,000 Twitter followers Lizzy is everywhere cricket is. A freelance writer for both The Mirror (UK) and SPIN cricket magazine, and a guest commentator on Test Match Sofa, Lizzy describes herself as ‘part-time cricket writer. Full-time cricket tragic.’ She offers great insights with an English spin – you can read her thoughts at legsidelizzy.com.

@fayeb07 – a self-professed lover of English cricket, Faye is a more recent convert but her writing shows a cricketing maturity that belies that. Her blog – Caught at Slip, provides her thoughts on the English game including coverage of the England Women.

To the women who have read this, I sincerely hope it hasn't come across as condescending; it's meant as the complete opposite. I love the work of the female scribes - not due to their gender but because I appreciate their writing and views.

Don't get me wrong; I'm sure there are women who do go the cricket to see their white knight, just as some men use it as a chance to get lagered and hurl vitriol at the combatants - sport simply reflects life.

No-one should judge coverage and comment by the gender of the writer but by the quality and insight of the writing. If you don't like a piece, comment and tell the author - we all love feedback. For many of us it's the reason we write, for the interaction with those who love our great game as we all do - woman or man.

If you know of other female scribes, please let me know - make a comment or tweet me @aotearoaxi.

49 comments:

  1. That "other" thing on the women's games annoys me SO MUCH. I've tweeted ESPN about it a couple of times but had no response, funnily enough.

    Also the fact that they have live ball-by-ball updates for the men's international games (and the England county games, now I come to think of it) but not for the women's - if you want to check the scores part-way through the match, you're stuffed. I kept track of the Eng/NZ women games on the NZ cricket site instead.

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    1. It's pretty poor on Cricinfo's part. Maybe it's worth hitting up @FirdoseM or @GeorgeDobell1?

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    2. Maybe. I know George follows me on Twitter. Worth a shot.

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    3. I dropped a copy to George, Firdose Moonda and ESPNCricinfo as well. Maybe you need to get all your followers to drop tweets to Cricinfo?

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    4. Hi there guys,

      I recently did live scoring and commentary on Cricinfo for the first three Twenty20 Internationals between the New Zealand Women and England Women, so I'm not sure where you're coming from saying that they don't do any ball-by-ball coverage. Yes, it's not the same amount as the male game, but I can assure you they do try to cover female cricket as much as possible.

      Just to clarify, Cricinfo can only do live scoring and commentary of televised matches, as many boards have conditions in the media accreditations prohibiting live scoring from the ground, as this would conflict with their official scoring on their official website. So to some extent, hands are tied.

      And I guess the sad reality is that there isn't much interest in the game amongst the Cricinfo audience. I hardly received any commentary feedback during the womens' games, but it streams in for men's internationals.

      Will talk to Cricinfo's scoring manager about the classification of women's games under 'Other'.

      Hope that clarifies things a little bit.

      Cheers

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    5. Thanks for the reply, Avi - it's good to have an insider's view and it's much appreciated. The biggest gripe I have had from people after writing this piece has been about the 'Other' piece - it would be great to see women's internationals recognised as a separate category, just as domestic cricket is.

      As an aside, does NZC have an agreemtn that prohibits live scoring of the Plunket Shield on Cricinfo? I imagine it's not a big worldwide drawcard, but currently there are just end of day updates.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

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    6. Domestic cricket is very difficult to cover. Unless it's televised, you can't do live scoring as the boards normally have the same condition in both domestic and international media accreditations. Unless they give an exemption (which they don't), again live scoring is an impossibility.

      And of course, you need the staff to cover it. Cricinfo already has a tough time covering all the international cricket that is on, but they just don't have the resources to cover domestic cricket to the same extent. It depends especially on where they have offices. They don't have one in New Zealand, so they have no local staff who can cover local cricket.

      Since the HRV Cup is televised, I am sorting out a proposal to cover those matches, either with match reports or live scoring. Depends on budgets as well, so we'll wait and see, but fingers crossed!

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  2. The part about your wife not being interested in how the players look made me laugh. Sana Kazmi (another lovely lady to follow) and Mr. Cricket Couch and I discussed this on a podcast. When ladies watch cricket and we point out that players are good looking, we immediately get told that's the only reason we watch cricket. Yet, when men do this to female athletes, it's 'acceptable' or the norm. I appreciate good looks - on men or women - and I'll make it known when I think somebody is good looking (especially sportsmen as I spend a lot of my time watching them). Not offended by your comment relating to it, by the way, just mentioning it ;)

    And yes, it's more 'acceptable' for women to cover cricket these days, but there is still a shocking number of men who have an aversion to it. Ask Firdose to tell you a funny story about #ImNotTheSexiest (a guy who Tweeted that he cannot take female analysts seriously - tried to hashtag I'm not sexist, but got the letters mixed up). A certain well-known commentator still believes that women have no place in a press box...and I know of a male writers who feel the same.

    Sad really.

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    1. I appreciate hotness in a cricket player but that's not the reason I'm into cricket. No matter how cute they may be, that doesn't really translate to radio commentary or stats (both of which I love). Nor does it make for a good game, when it comes down to it.

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    2. Obviously. I'm saying that it's automatically assumed if you mention a player's looks that is the reason you watch the game.

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    3. Hell, I don't even like cricket!! I just pretend to like it so that that I can look some of the Bloggers and Tweeters cute, goofy grins.

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    4. mspr1nt - slight misunderstanding there I think - I blame it on the literary skills of the writer! The bride has her eye on some of the lads, but given what she has at home... I had a NZ journo point out to me that if she was ever to mention a player's physique all hell breaks loose, yet us lads do it all the time - it's almost expected. I have no issue either way with commenting on physique, it's natural, and it shouldn't detract from someone's ability to analyse.

      As a male, I find the male aversion to women cricket scribes appalling, and a poor reflection. Likewise, I have heard a number of ex-players and commentary types try to explain that anyone who hasn't played the game at the highest level should be analysing, commenting, writing or coaching...

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  3. Nice piece.. The biggest challenge here in India for women to play is infrastructure..Schools need to encourage girls to play and its so important to play in order to understand Cricket deeply.. hopefully things will change here

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    1. Given the size of the country, India would be scary if they got their act together. Whilst cricket is played by girls in school here it oftens seems an afterthought. Coaching a women's side almost seems to be frowned upon in some circles, though I actually found coaching women's sides more enjoyable - on the whole the players were more willing to work on their technique.

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  4. Interesting. On the whole I tend not to find cricketers attractive - would be too much like a Busman's holiday to date a cricketer. I think cricket maybe less sexist than some of the other sports and on the whole I've found Press boxes to be pretty accepting with a few notable exceptions. One recent comment referring to me "who is this woman? and why does anyone listen to her opinion".

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    1. I'd never date a cricketer, that'd be conflict of interest :)
      Still really like looking at them.

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    2. Thanks Lizzy - do the exceptions occur amongst the old boys or do the young lads sometimes have the same opinion?

      mspr1nt - Mr Gayle?

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    3. Good Lord, no. I don't find Gayle attractive in that way.

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    4. But if you're anything like my wife you still jump around as he smashes it to all parts. I spend large parts of the summer schooling her on Windies cricket - she even cracks a Jamaican accent when he's on fire!

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    5. Having worked as a cricket journo and having spent the summer in press boxes, I'm not really an animated cricket watcher. I get excited when he does his thing, sure...he's a joy to watch, but I appreciate him as a fascinating cricketing talent, that's it. Angelo Mathews, however....

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  5. I thought Cricket Australia was particularly disappointing with regard to Women's Cricket in their annual report this year. They had three photos in their section on "Engaging Women": one was the partner of a male cricketer, one was of female fans (which is fine), and one was of a female cricketer in an evening dress. This was matched by the test where discussion of tv coverage for women's cricket was put last. It struck me as a back-to-front, that FTA coverage was a significant success, and the rest insubstantial marketing.

    Similarly, while glossy photo shoots for marketing womens' sport have been around for years, they'd get noticed more if they looked better on the field. Cricket pants and baggy shirts look really daggy and unflattering on a girl, which won't attract women to play. Given the high-end attention paid to womens' sport fashion - and from personal experience, the time spent deciding on said fashion - a redesign is somewhat overdue.

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    1. Does the attire really matter? Would different kit attract more young girls to the game? I have no idea - maybe one of the ladies will comment...

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    2. I would like one of the girls to comment.

      I'll add a few points of supporting evidence. Shirts need to be cut for figures. Men look good in a shirt cut for the male figure, a girl who fills out a male shirt doesn't. If you go into a sportswear store the women's section is huge and diverse (in cuts and styles). If there is a choice between playing cricket in something that makes them look daggy or even a little butch, and playing tennis/soccer/netball in something that is flattering, cricket will lose. It was noticeable, for instance, that in the videos CA put out, neither Ellyse Perry, nor Meg Lanning were wearing their playing uniforms, but more feminine outfits (and to be fair the one-day short is a women's cut, if a baggy one, so it's mostly the pants).

      Women's sporting apparel is a massive industry that allows sportswomen to turn professional through endorsements. Part of support is buying the gear, and the women's national team is the perfect vehicle to sell it, thereby supporting women's cricket. Yet if you look at Cricket Australia's shop there are two female shirts for sale. Look at the MLB's shop and there are dozens of styles and cuts for sale (and that for a men's league).

      It isn't necessarily a big thing, but it might only take one girl at school to tell a prospective cricketer she looks bad in the kit to turn them off the sport, so it needs to be done.

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    3. Yep, attire matters. I still find it hard to watch women's cricket because some of them look so ridiculous in those helmets (as discussed on Mr. Couch's Podcast). Shallow, I know. The English women and some of the Aussies (Miss Perry, for instance) look marvellous in their kits, but some of the baggy stuff is quite off putting.

      And Russ is spot on. During the early years, when girls are insecure and struggling to find their identity amongst their peers, imagine being told your kit makes you look daft? I'd give it up, right there.

      Another problem is the misconception that girls who participate in 'men's dominated sports' are gay. And the teasing that comes with that...

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    4. My gut instinct was to say that attire SHOULDN'T matter, don't be ridiculous. But Ant has a point - pro sports players got into their game at a young age. It's all very well me (pushing 40) saying the outfit shouldn't matter but I guess it matters very much if you're 14 and maybe getting grief anyway for being more interested in cricket than pop stars.

      That said, I'd hate to see it becoming all about 'sexy cricket'. Women should look good on the field because "wow, check out that cover drive" NOT "wow, check out the arse on her". Kit designers would have to tread a fine line between flattering & functional, or we run the risk of women's sport being taken even less seriously than it already is.

      Last note: As a fan, it'd be nice to be able to buy replica shirts that aren't insanely baggy. I'm not teeny but anything other than XS looks like a tent on me.

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    5. @Alternate Rowan - as a bloke I don't really have too much context to talk about the uniforms but I see the point about making them appealing to young women/girls.

      Re the replica shirts, I know they do it for women's rugby jersies - there are not a lot of them but they are a lot more tailored. Given the increasing numbers of women getitng into cricket it is likely developing into a captive market.

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  6. My love for cricket originally came from female cricket writers. And amazingly they were writing in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. When I discovered my mother's hoarded and dusty hardcover collection I was hooked. The setting was typically at an English girls boarding school and they all played cricket. Often in glorious detail, ball by ball. These girls also solved mysteries, were loyal friends, independent, smart, funny, strong and inspiring. So here's a special mention for my favourite female cricketing author Winifred Darch (1884 - 1960) who inspired my love of playing and following cricket.

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  7. Great post ACB; another who you could add to your list is Margot Butcher who has written some wonderful stories on cricketers for North and South in particular over the years. She's also a former NZ Sports Journalist of the Year

    https://twitter.com/#!/MargotButcher

    Well worth a look...

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    1. I've had Margot on my list from early on - fantastic writer and very engaging.

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  8. Sharda Ugra is another excellent cricket writer. She is a Senior Editor at Cricinfo. I'd say she has better clarity on cricket issues than many of the ex-players

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  9. Anyone remember Zoe Goss?. Instead of letting her stats do the talking she will always be known as "that WOMAN who bowled Brian Lara" (refer youtube titles). I also remember how uncomfortable I was watching the game due to the sickening old boys commentary and how they went on and on about how would Lara "live it down" being bowled by "A WOMAN" as though nothing could be worse. Unfortunately I dont think much has chanmged in todays game.

    BTW good to see our young White Fern featured in the KFC classic catches on Channel 9's Tri Series commentary the other day.

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    1. Nice call, Mr Edwards. I remember thinking something similar at the time. Was that also the match where Fatty Vautin took that f***** catch?

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    2. Didn't Mark Richardson cop a serve from Lara when he enquired "How's Zoe?" when the Windies played Otago once?

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    3. He likely did - he'd probably suffered the yips by then so knew he wasn't going to have to roll the arm over...

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    4. The Fatty Vautin match was a different one, up in Brisbane. I'll tell you who did play: Graeme Pollock. The only time I've ever seen him bat in real time, as opposed to highlights. He was 50 by then, but still brilliant.

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  10. WOW. That was brilliant. There are many women who love cricket and have a great knowledge of the game. :D

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    1. ...and this piece has thrown up a whole lot more I didn't know about.

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  11. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages - Kia Ora. Thanks for all your comments and apologies for the lack of reply so far - it was after midnight when I posted this piece last night and I am typing this on an iPhone, with sausage fingers, at the hospital. I will post responses to all this evening from the relative comfort of home. One quick point though, mspr1nt, my wife still has her favourite cricket knights, but more on that later. For those who have posted on Twitter @aotearoaxi, I'll respond there too by the end of the day.

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  12. You're missed out one if the most interesting, @WesPFCNFS, Steffi is a German female cricket writer, who often had a quite different take on things, both being female and from a non-testplaying nation.

    I like that there is a real diversity in cricket writers, both in terms of gender, nationality, playing experience and age. For me out only makes my cricket following more enjoyable.

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    1. Thanks Mykuhl - I'll definitely follow her on Twitter. @lemayol is based in Germany too, and writes some great pieces.

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  13. Keep an eye on women's cricket in New Zealand. 'Like' the White Ferns on Facebook - http://t.co/v8TfzrC1

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  14. Very nicely put! Most of the time all the guys I discuss cricket with are genuinely surprised I know so much. They don't believe that I have watched some Test matches where a single ball hasn't been missed by me. Though I don't write much about cricket the part about females looking past the looks is hitting the proverbial nail on the head. But this piece and the ensuing comments has also made me aware that I am missing out on women's cricket. About time I followed it with the same interest as the men's.

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    1. Thanks for the comments - glad you enjoyed it. You might enjoy the piece my wife wrote for me recently; it puts things into perspective for me re women supporters - they're no different to males. We're all fans! Test cricket? Loving it!

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  15. I'm not sure whether it's a permanent feature, or a temporary change but ESPNCricinfo have today included Women's Internationals (ENGvIND) as part of their International fixtures, not Others. Well done to all involved in making the change, whoever it may have been. @AlternateRowan has been crusading for a while, and Messers Dobell, Hopps and Singh have all taken up the cause.

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  16. Re the uniforms; women's (and girls') kit doesn't need to be cut to look good, it needs to be cut to be comfortable and practical to play in. A men's shirt is either too tight in certain areas to allow a full range of movement or too loose around the waist area to be practical to field
    in...

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  17. I have to say that I have followed men cricket's for years in many countries like Australia, India, England and in USA, but I have never followed women cricket, I think I need a change ;)

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