Thursday, February 19, 2015

England v New Zealand: the series so far

NB: This is an edited version of my earlier post in the light of a conversation with Adam Mountford (TMS producer) earlier this morning. I removed the original of my own volition.

First Twenty20: England beat New Zealand by 8 wickets (with 50 balls remaining). Scorecard here.

England have just whopped the Kiwis by 8 wickets, having bowled them out for 60. It's the kind of performance I had in mind when I wrote my latest Cordon piece, on the recent frustrating decline of New Zealand Women. I'm still trying to work out what the difference was between the England of the 3 ODIs and the England of last night; I'm sure Martin Davies will have some thoughts. (Although if he or anyone else wants to suggest that it was due to dropping Jenny Gunn, they can think again.)

What have we learned from last night, though? I'm not sure very much that we didn't already know. England's best bowler at the moment is Heather Knight by a country mile (as Syd Egan has already pointed out). Anya Shrubsole can bowl like a tigress when she wants to. England, and especially Sarah Taylor, bat well when they come in and aren't under pressure to make a big total. The middle order weren't tested like they were in the ODIs.

There is one thing that needs saying, though, and I'm going to say it: The media coverage of this tour thus far has, bar TMS's efforts, been appallingly bad.

Cricinfo has no ball-by-ball coverage whatsoever and posts the scorecards only after the match has finished. Ditto BBC Sport.

Sky have wall-to-wall coverage of the men's World Cup for the next 2 months. They are making a song and dance of the fact that they are covering every ball of the women's Ashes this summer, and yet they have made no attempt to provide any televised coverage of this series whatsoever, not even providing updates from the ground – which could surely have been done fairly easily?

There are no members of the written press at the games at all (despite the fact that New Zealand must currently be absolutely crawling with cricket media). Martin Davies, an independent blogger, has been the only person in the press box at every game. Written coverage on Cricinfo has quite obviously been done entirely from the scorecards.

And there is no live stream of any of the games – not even from one static camera behind the bowler's arm, as we had during England's tour of the West Indies in October 2013.

Last year, after the World Twenty20, I wrote a piece for the Cordon about the decision not to broadcast any of the group games. When are we going to stop missing out on the best, most iconic, and most exciting moments in women's cricket, I asked? The answer appears to be: not any time soon. It is all incredibly frustrating for fans of the women's game.

The efforts of the BBC to cover the series should be applauded. Of course it's disappointing not to have ball-by-ball coverage of every game – but as Adam Mountford, TMS producer, explains: “We have gone out of our way to provide as much coverage of as many games as we possibly can. Unfortunately some of the matches conflict with the men's World Cup, and we have a deal with Radio Sport New Zealand and ABC to cover all of the tournament matches. This was agreed over a year ago, before the women's international schedule was announced.”

“But despite the clash, and the fact that our team to cover this World Cup is half the size of the one which covered the last men's World Cup in 2011, we have worked incredibly hard to make sure that members of our commentary team were present for the first few games of the series, to provide ball-by-ball coverage and live updates.”

It is part of a longstanding commitment by the BBC to showcase the women's game in recent years: we have had coverage of every ball of the last three Ashes series; and they are the only UK news organisation to have provided coverage of the last three women's World Cups. Not just that, but their coverage has been excellent – some of the best the women's game has ever had. Charles Dagnall in particular, despite freely admitting that he knew very little about women's cricket before the 2013 World Cup in India, has proved an insightful and entertaining commentator who, most importantly, has done his homework when it comes to knowledge of the game and the players.

The problem is that the BBC's commitment is not being mirrored by other broadcasters. It is also not being backed up by the cricket boards, who should surely be providing live streams of matches which are not being televised. If we want more people to follow and care about women's cricket, then it needs to happen, and sooner rather than later.

During tonight's Twenty20, the announcement came through that Cricket Australia will definitely be running a Women's Big Bash League, alongside the men's version, over the 2015/16 season. This is extremely exciting news. Yet if the tournament is to be a success, it will depend partly on it gaining coverage in the Australian and international media. On the basis of this series so far, I'm concerned.

The BBC has led the way. Others need to follow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014