Mithileysh Sathiyanarayanan is an England National Cricket League (NCL) player and a cricket enthusiast.
London: In the Women’s World Cup 2017, some brilliant performances by Mithali Raj (IND), Ellyse Perry (AUS), Chamari Atapattu (SL), Harmanpreet Kaur (IND), Sarah Taylor (ENG), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Kristen Beams (AUS), Jhulan Goswami (IND) and many others have made viewers and media raise an interesting question “Can mixed cricket improve gender empowerment and develop the women’s game even further?”
Women’s cricket is in a similar male-bastion storming, epoch-making situation and the ICC could hardly be pleased at their continued success in the World cup. It is quite an achievement that the women have done so well in the world stage. They must be promoted in a big way and manned with gender-sensitized personnel.
What is Mixed Cricket?
Mixed cricket can also be called as Mixed-gender cricket or co-cricket, a system of cricket where males and females play cricket together. For many years, numerous countries did not permit young people to play mixed games for cultural reasons. Young girls would play cricket with other girls, regardless of the age difference. In the mid 20th Century, young girls were allowed to undergo training in the boy’s camp which was a good sign. In recent years, it is worth noting that countries like England and Australia allow mixed participation in cricket at the national level which explains why sports, in general, is so well-developed in these countries.
Some real examples of the women cricketers who played in the men’s team:
- Sarah Taylor, English wicketkeeper-batsman played men’s England grade cricket (for Northern Districts) against men’s Australia grade cricket (Port Adelaide Team) in Australia in 2015.
- Kate Cross, English fast bowler, played in the Central Lancashire League, in April 2015. She took 3/19 for Heywood against Clifton. When she played for Heywood again, she took a stunning 8/47.
- Chloe Wallwork, English player, played in the Bolton Association 2013, making her debut for local club Walshaw, against Golborne. She took 4 wickets in 11 overs to set up a win for her team.
- Arran Brindle, English player, became the first woman to score a century in men’s semi-professional cricket as she scored 128 for her team against Market Deeping CC on 21 May 2011.
- Ellyse Alexandra Perry, Australian player, holds the unique distinction of playing both cricket and football for her country, Australia. She debuted in both games at the age of 16. Later, she played for Sydney grade cricket. In a Poidevin-Gray Shield Twenty20 against Blacktown (2010), she took 2/14 from 4 overs in a menacing spell.
- Zoe Goss, Australian pace bowler, played in the Bradman Foundation charity match in Sydney in December 1994. She was selected to join Sir Donald Bradman XI squad to play against World XI. Interestingly, Goss took 2/60 from 10 overs, including the wickets of batting novice Brian Lara and former Windies keeper Jeff Dujon.
- Clare Connor, English all-rounder, played for the Brighton College men’s cricket team in the early 1990’s before starting her ODI career for England. She then played in the Cricketer Cup when she appeared for Old Brightonians against Lancing Rovers.
These however are isolated cases, and no woman cricketer has yet played alongside men at the international level.
Do you think the ICC should come up with the idea of including mixed cricket within the existing system?
Why Mixed Cricket?
Allowing men and women to play together contributes to the elimination of gender bias, improves tolerance and promotes mutual respect. By playing alongside men, women gain a more positive image of themselves, increase their self-confidence and become more aware of their abilities and responsibilities. This will contribute greatly to the development of cricket in general and encouraging mixed cricket will help to fight gender discrimination and chauvinism. One of the biggest benefits of such a move would be to shatter the negative stereotypes about women and their abilities. In fact, this will bring about a massive cultural transformation.
Mixed cricket will also seek to encourage more girls and boys to take up the sport; organizers might also want more females to follow cricket, while convincing young sportswomen there is a worthwhile career for them in the game. For organizers, it will promote healthy ticket sales for women’s cricket and serve as a catalyst that piques the interest of potential commercial sponsors all over the world. This will make a huge impact on the viewers’ mind and promote widespread media coverage, live streaming, radio commentary and video highlights.
Overall it will bring in a phenomenal change and create a revolution in the history of cricket. If successful further steps can be taken to improve the standards, a slight change and taking viewers in the consideration, a golden moment can be created in history of cricket. We all know the women’s game has only been under the ICC’s auspices since 2005. The developments since then are unparalleled and the ICC will precipitate that transformation.
The women players are definitely giving stellar performances in recent times abetting the popularity of women’s cricket. Women’s cricket has great talents who can combat men when given enough practice. The idea of mixed cricket isn’t as crazy it sounds. Women play with men in other sports already – think of mixed doubles in tennis. So, what stops cricket, a game requiring skill and finesse to open up to the idea that men and women can play together? Players such as Suzie Bates, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Sarah Taylor, Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Stafanie Taylor are many great names in women’s cricket today. These are a handful of names in the gallery of prominent women players.
In their book, “Playing with the Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal in Sports”, authors Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano argue that “We should not sort athletes by what sex they are, but rather by their skill. The present sexual segregation in sport is based not on physical reality but on anachronistic notions of women as the weaker sex”. This needs to be adapted in cricket as well where the best athletes play, not just the best male athletes.
The idea of mixed cricket is not to abolish separate men’s and women’s teams. It makes sense to have separate men’s and women’s team competing at the international level, but it also makes sense to have women and men playing together.
Things that may work in the Mixed Cricket are:
- Women wicket-keeping skills can be matched with men counterparts.
- Women may prove to be excellent spinners.
- Women prove to be good in defense and stroke-making which helps in batting long innings.
- Their fielding and running between wickets works as well.
- Even slow bowlers, bowling at pace around 120, may find it difficult to bat.
The only issues with women’s cricket are:
- Presently, they are not fully exposed to express pace while batting. The transition will certainly take time.
- Presently, there are not many power-hitters which is a way to go in limited over cricket.
- They don’t have express pace
- In women’s cricket, boundaries are usually 10–15 meter shorter than their counterpart. They might need to get used to bigger boundaries.
Things to consider for Mixed Cricket:
- Start as T20s and/or40-overs a side
- Twelve players in a game (6 men and 6 women), to have a balanced team
- One captain to represent men and one for women
- Batting must be in combination of one man and woman (from either end), so also bowling from each end.
- All the World Cups of Men, Women and Mixed can be integrated into one Mega World Cup to attract more sponsors and larger spectrum of spectators.
Indian Premier League (IPL) can be a platform to test Mixed Cricket:
The words engraved on the IPL trophy state “Where talent meets opportunity”. It would be a good idea to consider making the IPL a good opportunity for women talent too. In India, women cricketers barely get enough tournaments to hone their skills. This lack of visibility results in a lack of sponsors causing financial instability for women who desire to opt for cricket as their career.
There is ample scope for the BCCI to be a harbinger by including women players in the IPL teams which will give them a good platform to enhance their skills and consider cricket as their career. For example, the BCCI could pass a rule mandating that each franchisee must have a minimum of three women in the squad and one/two in the playing XI. This move can have multiple benefits, from making cricket a viable career option for girls to creating women superstars. It will also make the league a shining example of sporting inclusion around the world while upholding its reputation for constant innovation.
As a final thought, mixed cricket would make an exciting contest like mixed doubles in tennis. The rules and the procedures could be tweaked to make the match interesting. And most importantly, it would promote women’s cricket. People will get acquainted with the cricketers (both men and women) and turn up at the stadium to watch them play. This will improve gender empowerment and develop the women’s game even further. Just imagine the crowd roaring when Jhulan Goswami of India knocks the stumps off a world class player like Chris Gayle of West Indies. Isn’t it exiting!
Let us hope more stories of seemingly linear progress towards fully mixed cricket!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Cricket 3610 which does not accept any responsibility or liability for the same.