Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Getting Women Out
So, the BCCI has surpassed itself by deciding to move all Women's World Cup matches out of the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to a variety of other stadiums in Mumbai. Why? Because the Mumbai Cricket Association now wants to use Wankhede for the final of the men's Ranji Trophy. (See here: http://womens-cricket.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/women-kicked-out-of-wankhede.html and here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/story/601635.html)
I've come across many examples of this type of blatant relegation of women's cricket to the bottom of the priority list in my research, and it's one of the things that makes me angriest (yesterday I had a lovely session at my desk fuming; today I decided to actually do something productive and write a blog entry. Still fuming though.)
The British Women's Cricket Association came up against it back in the 1950s. The Association often spent long periods negotiating with the English county authorities over which grounds they might be permitted to use, and the dates on which they might be able to use them. This involved booking the grounds up to 3 years in advance when the WCA knew they would be staging a major international match. Thus when it came to arrangements for the 1954 New Zealand Women's tour of England, they had already booked Trent Bridge to use for the second Test match by the start of the 1952 season. Then, in December 1952, the venue had to be changed. Why? Because the MCC decided they wanted to use the Trent Bridge ground on the dates the WCA had previously applied for and fixed, for the (men's) England-Pakistan Test.
The Women's Test of July 1954 ended up being played at the New Road Ground, Worcester (it was drawn). Meanwhile Pakistan played at Nottingham in only their second official Test series, and lost to England by an innings and 129 runs.
The situation was similar in Australia. In the 1934/5 and 1948/9 women's Ashes series, the women's teams played Tests at both the SCG and the MCG and secured crowds in the region of 9000 (similar, apparently, to Shield match attendance in the same years). But for the 1957/8 Test series the Australian Women's Cricket Council was unable to secure either of these grounds (although they did play at the WACA and the Adelaide Oval). The Sydney Test was relegated to the North Sydney Oval and the Melbourne Test to St Kilda.
This wasn't actually because of a particular scheduling conflict, as far as I can make out. The authorities at those grounds just didn't think it was worthwhile hosting England Women there. And before we get complacent and decide that this was all a long time ago and doesn't matter very much, it's worth remembering that not a single women's Test match has been staged at the MCG or SCG since 1949.
Last example: the first time women played at Lord's was in 1976 (I'll probably write about that another time). It was a pretty big occasion, an England-Australia ODI, but it was also a bloody long time in coming, considering the WCA had asked the MCC to play a match there at regular intervals since 1929, and had come up against persistent refusals. But what is also noteworthy is that the women might well have got booted out of Lord's then too, if the Gillette Cup had worked out differently.
The 1976 Gillette Cup quarter-finals were scheduled for the same day as the WCA had scheduled their ODI against Australia, August 4th. Apparently the MCC agreed to host the women's ODI only on the proviso that Middlesex were not playing in a Cup quarter-final at home on that day. Alas for all Middlesex supporters (including myself, but my loyalties would have been with England Women on this occasion), they lost in their second round match against Lancashire, and never made it through to the quarter-finals at all.
So the WCA got their Ladies' Day at Lord's and England Women beat Australia Women by 8 wickets at the home of cricket. Yay!
What point am I making here? Basically, the BCCI's decision sits as the latest in a long line of decisions made for the good of men's cricket at the expense of its female counterpart. And that's why so little fuss is being made about this decision. And that's also why even though I'm fuming, I'm not actually too surprised. Because even in the age of global semi-professional women's cricket, this kind of prioritisation is still okay.
The BCCI has seen its fair share of controversy in recent times. Unlike its previous decisions, this latest move, while extraordinarily offensive to fans of the women's game, is probably not even on the radar of most cricket fans. It should be.