Sunday 23rd of July 2017, a defining day in the history of women’s cricket? Only time will tell. England defeated India to win the Women’s World Cup in front of a sold out crowd at Lord’s Cricket Ground, the most prestigious ground in the world and considered the spiritual home of the game. On this day, the England captain, Heather Knight, lifted more than a trophy! She and the rest of the players had contributed to lifting the women’s game to a whole new level and in doing so has surely changed the landscape of the game going forward.
Lord’s, a ground considered one of the last bastions of male superiority, erupted with deafening elation as the last wicket fell, in my opinion signifying a historic moment for the women’s game and showcasing just how far the game has come. No longer are women prohibited as members, no longer are they barred from playing at Lord’s, no longer are they insignificant. The game has smashed through the glass ceiling but what happens next? This is the most important question of them all. Something tells me it wasn’t just the general success of the tournament that will dictate the next phase of the game, nor the fact that England won, rather it was the final placing of the Indian women’s team that will be an important part of the equation in trying to capitalise on the tournament’s success and catapult the women’s game into a fully-professional era.
The 23rd of July was a watershed moment for the game. The numbers told the story; 26,500 people sold out Lord’s, the global television audience topped 50 million throughout the tournament, which was an 80% spike from 2013 and the final alone saw 1.16 million viewers tune into watch on Sky, more than the men’s Champions Trophy final in June. There was a general ‘buzz’ of enthusiasm and excitement surrounding women’s cricket as a whole. Yes, there has been increasing interest in women playing the game for a number of years, with countries like Australia and England dedicating more resources to their national teams and competitions, but on Sunday it reached fever pitch.
So how does cricket capitalise on this and grow the game? How does cricket continue to build female participation numbers across its playing nations? How does it become fully professional? All burning questions, but the answer could be heavily dictated by the buy-in of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) who are regarded as a major powerhouse in the sport and the fanfare that comes from the love of the game by the Indian public. The success of the Indian team and players has dominated the news and social media, with murmurs of a Women’s Indian Premier League getting louder and louder and would surely see the game finally reach professional status.
However, responsibility ultimately lies with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to ensure this ‘buzz’ does not die and they do everything they can to guarantee they do not lose ground and use this success as a platform to grow the game. Keeping the BCCI engaged, capitalising on the success of this World Cup, leveraging of existing Twenty/20 competitions (The Big Bash – Australia and The Kia Super League – England) and ensuring they continue to dedicate more resources to playing nations to maximise and grow engagement at all levels are significant pieces of the puzzle.
The next Women’s World Cup is being hosted by New Zealand in 2021; sold out stadiums? Household names? Million dollar commercial packages? More teams? The possibilities are endless, but we need to act now to ensure the incredible rise of women’s cricket continues.
What are your thoughts on a Women’s Indian Premier League?