An independent survey conducted last year by the Cricket Supporters’ Association suggested more than half of the total English cricket fans don’t think the England and Wales Cricket Board are looking after what’s in the best interest of the sport. The growing dissatisfaction with the country’s apex cricketing body mostly circled around the launch of The Hundred.
The novel 100-ball championship was recently deferred till 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and Yorkshire leg-spinner Katie Ann Levick, who was set to don the colours of Northern Superchargers, is devastated – not just with the postponement of the tournament but also due to the “celebration” that followed on social media. “Obviously, I think in light of the current pandemic, it is absolutely the right decision. But I saw quite a lot of backlash. It just annoyed me that a lot of people were celebrating the fact just because they opposed the format.
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“For the women especially, it was our job and a big source of income. We're now unemployed for the summer. In light of the current situation, we must show a bit more kindness towards people,” said Levick, who is the all-time leading wicket-taker in Women’s County Championship.
The Hundred, was highly praised, when it announced equal prize money for the men’s and women’s competitions in March. Although the organisers said the total prize budget of £600,000 would be split equally as part of the governing body’s 'commitment to making cricket a gender-balanced sport,' female players were due to make, on average, only 12 per cent of that of the men whose salaries peaked at £150,000.
With a temporary hiatus on sporting action worldwide, the 28-year-old really hopes the situation gets better so that there is at least some cricket by the end of the year. “Cricketing plans now are pretty non-existent. The Hundred’s postponed, the County season is still very much up in the air. We have to see if we do get to play this year. Until then, it's just a weird scenario.”
The introduction of the new format saw the ECB decommission the Super League Twenty20, where Levick used to play for the Diamonds. Levick, who, with 29 wickets from 28 matches, holds the record of being the highest uncapped wicket-taker in the tournament, said, “I was pretty sad about the decommissioning. It's a tournament I played since the very first edition. I think it was a really good boost for the women's game, with the players it was attracting. “
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At the same time, the Sheffield-born cricketer was enthusiastic about The Hundred. “It was going to be an equally exciting competition attracting the same level of stars. So that sort of took the sting off the cancellation of the Super League.
“Getting picked up by the Northern Superchargers obviously was thrilling. It's the most local team to me, about Yorkshire-based, and yes, I was getting to play at Headingley. I was really looking forward to getting back on the field with Lauren Winfield and Alyssa Healy. We also had Nicola Carey, who's just won the World Cup too. I was really excited by the prospect of hitting the field with those girls.”
Levick feels the popularity of the women’s game is definitely on the rise and an attendance of 86,174 at the 2020 T20 World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground speaks volumes about it. “The T20 World Cup finals was close to a sell-out. MCG just looked phenomenal. And it's something I never expected to probably see in my lifetime.”
“It could not have happened if it wasn't for the leagues, such as Big Bash, which really led the way. The KSL followed and gave girls an opportunity to play all over the world and make a career out of this. If the rumours of a complete female IPL are true as well, I think that will really send the women's game into the stratosphere. We all know no one is more passionate about cricket than an Indian fan.”