As the tenth Women’s World Cup gathers pace in India, it is worth pausing to reflect on the remarkable journey that women’s cricket is on.
The women’s game came under the auspices of ICC in 2005. Since then the decision that has unarguably had the greatest positive impact was to make the ICC World Twenty20 a joint men’s and women’s event in 2009. Such a platform has brought increased profile and exposure.
From an England team perspective, but also for the neutral, it was the televised semi-final between England and Australia from The Oval on 19th June where this was most powerfully felt. This match, shown live on Sky Sports, represented a tipping point for women’s cricket. Cricket pundits who had never looked twice at a women’s match were suddenly converted. With the England men’s team failing to make it further than the group stage of the tournament, cricket writers waxed lyrical about what they had witnessed at The Oval. The staggering run chase from England’s Claire Taylor and Beth Morgan (an unbeaten partnership of 122 runs from 81 balls) made this, without doubt, the match of the tournament.
It is the quality of these matches, the dedication of the players and the superb coverage that has made a real difference to the growth of the game. Sky's support of women's cricket has spanned Charlotte Edwards’ career, a full 16 years of coverage with the first match broadcast in June 1996. With two World Cups in the space of six months (50 over and T20), 2009 was certainly a special year for women’s cricket. England dominated winning both trophies and then followed them up with a series whitewash over Australia and the retaining of the Ashes. Thanks to Sky Sports, many of these magical moments were seen on TV screens and the sport has never looked back.
The inspiration provided by the England women’s team, who have retained their position as number 1 in the world since 2009, has brought thousands of young girls to the game. With Sky Sports broadcasting almost all of England women’s home T20 matches during the past 4 years, the chance to watch their role models in action on TV is invaluable for that next generation of girls.
Globally the sport is in great shape with development initiatives engaging high numbers of new female participants in countries as unlikely as Afghanistan, China and Papua New Guinea. In fact ICC annual research reported that growth in the number of women playing cricket in PNG during 2012 was so dramatic that it now has the 4th highest number of women playing cricket in the world, behind England, India and Australia. Stories as remarkable as this give us great confidence that women’s cricket is fast becoming a truly global sport. As Chair of the ICC Women’s Committee, our strategic target to have a minimum of 1 million participants by the end of 2015 is well on track.
And so to now, to the defence of our world number 1 ranking in Mumbai. Sky Sports will show 10 matches from the ICC Women’s World Cup and have given great exposure to the England women’s team in the build-up to the tournament – long may it continue.