You would have heard and read it a thousand times that Cricket is not just a game but a religion in India and it's not false. But everyone knows the popularity, fame and respect male cricketers have received, their counterparts haven't. There was a time when people were totally unaware that women's cricket existed. Although, the scenario is different now, it has not yet reached the optimum level. And in an effort to increase awareness about Women's cricket and for their promotion it's been proposed to include Women's T20 cricket in Commonwealth Game in Birmingham in 2022.
International Cricket Council and England and Wales Cricket Board will put forth a joint bid in front of the organisation committee next Monday and if they qualify at that stage then the Commonwealth Federation will make the final decision. Claire Connor, the director of England Women's Cricket, who was involved in the entire process of proposing the same, says this would be “an absolute game-changer.
“One of the things we have noticed is the more we have worked on this, the more passionate and committed people have become,” Connor told the Guardian.
“People really tune into Olympic and Commonwealth Games, watching sports they normally wouldn’t watch and are inspired by them. So it would be a different audience from a typical cricket tournament. So the benefits for women’s cricket are very obvious.”
As per the proposal, top 8 T20 teams would be competing against each other. The problem is with West Indies as it represents number of nations. Edgbaston would be the primary host venue with county grounds at Worcester, Derbyshire and Leicester as the secondary host venues, however, it's still under consideration.
“I hope our bid will be strong because it fits with what the Commonwealth Games are looking to do around equality,” she said. “One of their three core values is equality and they are, like most organizations or sports in a healthy place, looking to create more opportunities for female athletes and this would mean eight teams of female athletes. It is also really powerful that women’s cricket could be in on its own, standing there in its own right.”
If this proposal qualifies, it would be not the first time for Cricket in Commonwealth. Except for this time it would be the Women's team and 20 overs game unlike 1998 when it was Men's team and 50 overs game in Kuala Lumpur. South Africa defeated Australia for Gold Medal back then. Understanding the importance of this proposal David Richardson, chief executive of ICC himself will represent them in front of the committee.
This might help in promoting female participation in Olympics as current stand of women participation is 40%. If the proposal is accepted it will be a great step for cricket in particular and female participation in general. Also, the viewership of game will rise which will turn out to be beneficial for Women Cricket. Along with cricket other sports that are seeking permission are archery, shooting, para-table tennis and volleyball.
Efforts are been taken to change the scenario for female cricketers, to give them the spot they deserve and nothing could be better then the acceptance of this proposal and inclusion of women's cricket in Olympics. We could do nothing but hope that the committee accepts the offer.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “The appetite for the women’s game is huge, we have the facilities to stage a great tournament and there is a big opportunity for growth.
“As we saw with the ICC Women’s World Cup here in 2017, a global event can have a huge impact on inspiring women and girls to get involved in cricket – playing, watching and volunteering.
“Locally, Birmingham has the second largest South Asian population in the UK and we are already working hard to engage these communities in cricket through our South Asian Action Plan, which we launched in May.
“Birmingham 2022 would be a great opportunity to showcase cricket around the Commonwealth and give cricket a huge platform for growth locally, nationally and globally.”
England women’s captain Heather Knight said: “It’s hugely exciting that women’s cricket is bidding to become part of the Commonwealth Games.
“So much of what we do is about trying to get young girls and boys to pick up a bat and a ball and start playing the sport and the exposure of being in a global event like the Commonwealth Games would be so valuable for that.
“We saw earlier this year when the England Netball team won the gold medal on the Gold Coast that there’s a massive opportunity to inspire and to grow the game and we’d love to be a part of that.”
India women’s captain Harmanpreet Kaur said: “It’s a great idea, and we’ll get more fan following when we introduce cricket to Commonwealth Games.
“We can get more fans, we can get more games to improve our cricket. I’m really happy we’re going to get more games to play.”
Clare Connor, ECB director of women’s cricket and chair of the ICC Women’s Committee, said: “The inclusion of women’s cricket in the Commonwealth Games would give our sport another huge opportunity to inspire girls all around the world to believe that cricket is for them, to drive female participation and to continue to steer cricket towards being a truly gender neutral sport.
“We know the value of these opportunities having staged the ICC Womens’ World Cup 2017 on these shores. We watched our own England team lift the trophy in front of a full house at Lord’s with more than 180 million watching on television around the globe. Events such as these play a vital role in driving equal opportunity for women and girls in sport, providing wonderful heroes, role models and inspirational moments in time.