‘The next step is probably an IPL for women’

Ahead of their matches, the skippers of the England and New Zealand women's teams — Charlotte Edwards and Suzie Bates — addressed the media on various topics.

England women's team captain Charlotte Edwards (left) and her New Zealand counterpart Suzie Bates at a press conference in Chennai.   -  B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

Along with the ICC World T20 for men, the women’s tournament, too, kicks off at the same time in India. England and New Zealand will be playing their warm-up matches at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Ahead of their matches, the skippers of the two teams — Charlotte Edwards and Suzie Bates — addressed the media on various topics.

Charlotte Edwards, the England captain, feels the Women’s Big Bash has changed the dynamics of women’s cricket.

“Big Bash is brilliant. Suzie and I played in the same team. It was great. The main attraction was to play with some of the international players. It is great that we have got our own one coming up this summer. It is exciting for women cricketers to not only play internationals games but also domestic matches and get paid for that as well. It is such a huge attraction.

“We have played together during winter and on Saturday we will be facing each other. You learn so much. When I set out, I never thought we will get such kind of opportunities, which is great for women’s cricket.”

On being asked whether the BCCI should allow Indian women to play in Big Bash, Charlotte said: “That is not my decision, but we want the Indians to play in all the best competitions around the world because they have got some high quality players. We do want the Indians to play in the Super League and the Big Bash. It has been great to get many international players, the best in the world, to those events.”

On having an IPL for women cricketers, Charlotte said, “We want to play as much cricket as possible. We have seen what an impact IPL had on the men’s game. That is probably the next step.”

Suzie Bates, the New Zealand skipper, said despite the Chris Gayle incident when the West Indian cricketer was rebuked for passing a sexist comment at a female reporter, the view about women cricketers has changed.

“It was obviously disappointing from a personal point, but I think the opinion of the people around the world is definitely changing about the women’s game. Few people may still have not seen or exposed to what women’s cricket has to offer. Hopefully, this tournament and other leagues around the world can change the view.”

Despite being one of the most popular formats in the world, both the captains preferred Test cricket over T20.

Suzie said, “I still prefer Test cricket. Twenty20 has been awesome for the women’s game, in terms of spectators, getting the game on television, creating more of an entertainment package. But, as a cricketer, you want to play Test cricket where you are tested over a longer period of time. I would like to believe that the T20 format has made one-day format and Test cricket more exciting for women’s cricket.”

“I have played for quite a long time but I have never played a Test match and that’s a big test of your skills,” she added.

Charlotte said, “The Ashes format, probably, has been one of the best inventions. There is still room for Test cricket and who knows may be, moving forward, that will be the template for bilateral series, which I think is something all players would like to see.”

England women cricketers became the first to get a professional contract from their boards. On being asked how much that has helped them, Charlotte said: “I think we are very fortunate. We have got Loughborough, which is the National Academy, to go and train. So we have got the best facilities in the world, which really helps. Facilities aren’t really the problem. It is probably more about games. It is finding the number of games that you need as a professional, to be playing regularly. With the domestic competitions around the world, players can get the exposure to different conditions and teams.”

 

Charlotte, who is one of the most famous faces in women’s cricket, spoke about the changes since the World T20 in Bangladesh two years back. She said: “The game has improved massively in the last two years. It is great to see so many teams competing against each other. Everyone has beaten the other. The great thing is the game is moving forward rapidly.”

Suzie Bates has represented New Zealand both in basketball and cricket at the highest level. She was part of the basketball team which participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

“There are a couple of players like me — Sophie Devine is an international hockey player and then there is Ellyse Perry. It is really exciting to be part of women’s cricket at the moment. As much as I love basketball, there are more opportunities in cricket for women, especially in New Zealand.”

Charlotte hopes the World T20 will be a high-scoring affair. “I have always enjoyed playing in India. From what I have seen today the wickets look very good. Hopefully it will be a high-scoring tournament and it will be good for the women’s game.”

Suzie feels the biggest disadvantage of women cricketers till now has been that they never got the right kind of promotion until tournaments like Big Bash happened. “It is always exciting to be part of tournaments where men are involved too. Probably the biggest stumbling block in the past has been we have not had promotion of our own for women’s cricket. It started to change with women’s Big Bash in Australia and the Super League in England.”

Charlotte added: “The game is moving so quickly now. From our recent Ashes series, the grounds were full and that’s great for women’s cricket. Hopefully, this tournament will be a ground-breaking one for women’s cricket.”

“The crowd has grown enormously, especially in the last two or three years. We are hoping for big crowds in India. From playing in Big Bash and watching thousands of spectators, we want to play in front of a big crowd. We are international cricketers and hopefully we will keep attracting more and more people to watch our game because it is a great product now and that is the most important thing.

“We are role models in the women’s game and hopefully, the crowds in India will come in and watch us. With the Indians doing so well at the moment, that is a bigger attraction as well.”

On being asked whether sledging exists in women’s cricket, Charlotte said: “It is good banter, sledging does exist because it is part of the game now. But we also know where to draw the line.”

New Zealand, which has come close to winning the title twice, has recently won a T20I series against Australia. Speaking about the feeling in the side, Suzie said: “Playing Australia at home and winning the series 2-1 gave us a lot of confidence coming into the tournament. We have been reasonably successful in Twenty20 cricket and obviously falling short twice was disappointing.

“There are a few girls who were involved in that campaign. The experience we have gained from failure always helps going into the World Cup. We are here to win the trophy and it will be a closely fought tournament. We have got some confidence and momentum. We have got to start good.”

The New Zealand cricketer hopes that she and her team can inspire the girls to take up the sport just like Brendon McCullum and the Black Caps did during the 2015 World Cup.

“The World Cup at home and the way the Black Caps went about their business, the way Brendon McCullum led the side and the way they played, it was really inspiring for all New Zealanders around the world. We have tried to follow some of the success of our men’s team. Hopefully we can inspire the girls to take up cricket in New Zealand. Our goal is to try and promote the game and encourage more and more girls to play.”

On having women who are not only cricketers but have regular jobs as police and teachers, Suzie said: “There has been a change in the last 12 months, especially for the New Zealand team. There have been opportunities to be full time cricketers. However, we have got some girls, who are not only playing cricket but defending our streets.

“But the game is moving forward, allowing the girls to train as much as possible and play international cricket. We have to look ahead and make sure we are keeping up with the other teams. But we do like our girls doing things away from cricket as well.”

Charlotte also spoke about how she has changed over time as a leader.

“It has changed a lot. I have re-invented myself quite a few times. I have learnt along the way. Even the recent experience on turning professional, it all has been a massive challenge. I wouldn’t have been here if I did not believe that I could not give my all to the job. The game has changed, and we have changed as a team. Coaches are constantly challenging me to be better and lead the team better. It has been good fun.”

Speaking about the England squad for the World T20, Charlotte said: “Anya Shrubsole is going to be the key. She was the player of the tournament from the last World Cup. Heather Knight is in fantastic form after a really good series in South Africa. Also Natalie Sciver is there. I think it is going to take a real team effort to win this World Cup. We have got a strong squad.”