Club and county cricket in England has undergone a constant and varied evolution since its inception in the 18th century to its contemporary format. The next major competition within the cricket world is the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup, which will begin on Saturday 24 June and wrap up on Sunday 23 July. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Why?
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that women athletes are usually overlooked by the media in comparison to their male counterparts. Take football, for example: supposedly a national obsession, but from the media’s coverage of the women’s World Cup, it seems as if we are only really interested in the game when the players are men. Chances are, if you are based in the UK, you would not even have watched the women’s World cup in 2016; the England games attracted a mid-afternoon audience of around 1.8 million on BBC2, which is nothing compared to the ca. 15 million who watched the male players strut their (depressingly average) stuff on BBC1 during prime time.
A mid-afternoon slot like that is hardly an ideal position in the media’s schedule for a profile-raising campaign. But sadly, it’s hardly surprising. Women’s participation in sport has a long history – one marked by challenges, division and discrimination. The positive outcomes of sport for gender equality and empowering women and girls can often be restricted by gender discrimination in all areas and at all levels of sport; women were often considered “too weak for sport”, particularly endurance sports, like marathons or weightlifting. Women’s access to positions of leadership and decision-making is constrained from the local level to the international level.
However, the history of women’s participation in sport is also one filled with major accomplishments by female athletes and important advances for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Cricket is a great example – women have been playing since the 18th century too, and have more recently beaten male teams to several milestones in one-day cricket. In 2009, England batsman Claire Taylor was named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year – the first woman to be honoured with the award in its 120-year history.
What can you do?
Those at the top of their game say: persevere. Be brave – be bold for change, as per the slogan of International Women’s Day this year! Get involved with a sport regardless of the gender balance in the squad, team or group. If cricket has captured your interest, you can also find out more about each of the matches that will be played in the Women’s Cricket World Cup on the BBC website or follow the #wwc hashtag on Twitter.