The Sunday Star Times has a cricket guide this week. YIPPEE! Cricket has been my first love since taking a catch when I was 8 in a Nelson campground game. I remember it drawing rounds of applause from fellow campers picnicking under the trees.
The reality, most likely, is my mum was pleased.
Anyhow, the guide has the whereabouts of games, player profiles, and photos galore.
There is one page about women’s cricket out of 30. And one action photo of women’s cricket out of 16.
Women have been playing cricket in New Zealand since 1886 – which was late in an international context – I played in the 250th anniversary of the first women’s cricket match in a small ground in Surrey in 1995.
Women cricketers in 1973 organised the first World Cup two years before their male counterparts. New Zealand women have consistently out-performed New Zealand men – coming second in two World Cups before beating Australia in 2000. Yes, that’s right, New Zealand cricketers can win World Cups.
For the last decade or so, women’s and men’s cricket associations have been amalgamating all over the world. New Zealand was early, in 1992, while the International Cricket Council became fully amalgamated in 2005.
The benefits of amalgamation – for women – have been widely touted. Essentially, it would give women cricketers better direction, improve our play, widen the player base, and bring us out from under that rock of little media attention, no money, and women players doubling as administrators on a voluntary basis.
The unveiling of rankings for women’s ODIs is the latest benefit of the women’s game being brought under the ICC’s auspices, and will help them market their cricket better.
Yet in England, it was only during an Extraordinary General Meeting in 1998 that women’s cricket agreed to amalgamate with the men’s governing body. There was strong resistance, with many fearing women would lose control over their game, and a lack of trust in how fairly women players would be treated by the ECB.
Human Rights Commissioner and ex-journo Judy McGregor wrote of print media coverage of women’s sports in the 1990s that her research showed a “worrying and regressive…decline in gender representation in newspaper sports sections”. Less stories about sportswomen while more and more sports amalgamated.
When I played in the late 1980s and early 1990s, every women’s senior club cricket match was reported in the Dominion and Evening Post. Now, it is unusual to even see a scoreboard. I can remember doing a radio sport interview live from Kilbirnie Park when the team I captained, Eastern Suburbs, refused to play on a dangerous pitch. Because it was news, and covered as such.
What about player numbers? Sparc estimated 49,200 women played cricket each year in 1997-2001. By 2007, another 10 years into the benefits of amalgamation, this has reached…..53,000. Over the same period male players increased by about 10,000 to 185,170.
Some changes to women’s cricket since amalgamation have changed the demographics of which women play. The scrapping of a National Second XI tournament because it was too costly has decimated club cricket in many parts of the country. Women who are not quite good enough for first-class cricket do not keep playing in 2008 – meaning the average age of senior players is probably 10 years lower than when I started playing in the mid 1980s. Women do still have a developing players tournament.
There are also secondary school tournaments for both girls (2) and boys (3), and in addition to first-class cricket, which is longer and professional event for men, males also have a provincial A tournament, the Hawke’s Cup, an Under 19 tournament, and an Under 17 tournament. So I guess there is still some funding available somewhere.
The women’s game has improved in many respects over the last couple of decades. More women, like men, bowl faster than they did just ten years ago, the fielding is often startlingly agile, and more women hit the ball further. But I’m not convinced this has anything to do with amalgamation. Actually, senior women play on worse wickets now than we did 15 years ago, and have less positive relationships within our clubs. My last season – 2005/06 – at Eastern Suburbs was notable for the senior men’s team passing around blow up dolls in the clubrooms which they mimed intercourse with. This would have resulted in the men involved being kicked out 15 years ago – now, even when the club received complaints, it resulted in excuses.
The Wikipedia entry on New Zealand cricket does not mention women, though there is a separate page. The New Zealand cricket website is named after the Black Caps, and sure enough there is an abundance of information about men’s cricket and…a couple of pages about the White Ferns. New Zealand’s 1994 commemorative cricket postage stamps – two years after amalgamation between women and men – featured only male cricketers.
What is a huge shame about this? That little girls are missing out on hearing themselves applauded when they take a catch in a campground? Or does that still happen? That the New Zealand cricket-loving public are missing out on fabulous athletes, because they are not being covered properly? What about nationalism – who wants to support a New Zealand cricket team that actually wins more than it loses?
Actually, the shame for me is that, like many other arenas in our post-feminist world, the gender equality spin of amalgamation hasn’t been realised.
An earlier post I wrote about sexism in sport drew this comment:
…the gap between men’s and women’s sport has been steadily closing since 1985 and that upcoming generations of New Zealanders have largely dropped the attitude that sports are for men and celebrate female sportspeople, which bodes extremely well for the future.
This has been the message pushed post-amalgamation of men’s and women’s sports – including cricket. I don’t share the optimism I’m afraid.