From its humble beginnings in 1745 to the present day, women’s cricket has come a long way

By Ritu Bain, Head of Sales-India

The colour of ribbons in their hair distinguished the team of women from Bramley and Hambledon in the year 1745 that played cricket in England. That was the beginning of women’s cricketing history.

Not much happened for the next few decades apart from women who got a little opportunity to play after they left school. The outbreak of World War I might have wreaked some havoc and devastation in the world but for the women of England, they left their ducks at home and went about realizing a dream. The lasses dared to play without being tabooed with ludicrosity and disgrace. Although a silly point! The Women’s Cricket Association gave women an opening to structured cricket. After a working day, the girls just wanna have some fun. Ah! so did the ladies, they were classy and quite fabulous. By the middle of the 1930s, fervor reached Australia and New Zealand. Women’s Cricket continued whenever women could time and incur their expenses.

In 1958, the International Women’s Cricket Council was formed to facilitate and liaison with teams of other countries. England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Holland were the teams that became part of the inception. India and West Indies in 1973, Ireland (1982), Denmark (1983), Pakistan (1997) and Sri Lanka (1997) enlisted gradually as time went by. Rachell Heyhoe-Flint lobbied for women to use the ground and her lasting friendship with a businessman Jack Hayward led to the Women’s World Cup in 1973, The mamas taught the Billys to roast the ducks and hammer the stumps.

Women’s cricket was never a well-funded sport and the struggles continued. Cricket was pursued by women for the ardour and vehemence despite the poor training base, awards and recognition as opposed to their male counterparts. Despite the maidens seldom bowling a maiden over. Sport is mostly benchmarked as a male domain, archly because of anatomical differences between the genders, only that Cinderella knew when to leave the ball!
Although both men and women played a sport called cricket, nonetheless it was appraised differently based on entertainment value which is an interface to the bucks behind the games. Most of the stands would remain empty while the girls played without a television telecast and news seldom made it to the newspapers. The women redefined their game by owning their own style of cricket, we would like to call it the game-changer. In the year 2005, the International women’s Cricket Council (IWCC) handed over their reins to the International Cricket Council (ICC) that allowed the influx of funds. That was a fine day for cricket ultimately.

From the year 2005, a reset button was hit in the world of women’s cricket where there was a surge in the number of games that were played. With over 11 world cups played to date and debutante countries continue making their way in the cricketing world, it is indeed a victory for women’s cricket. In 2009, the women made their debut in T20. The women played their matches before their male counterparts, it helped boost them with better telecast and larger spectator numbers. For a cricketer, ground full of spectators is a day in paradise. Over time it was seen that the women were no longer poosebacks on the men and were copiously successful of being independent in their own arena.

In the second decade of the 21st century, women were not just glamour quotients in the commentary boxes, with noodle straps and pencil heels, there was a major image overhaul with an increased women audience. Beating trolls, the babe brigade marched on, gradually making their entry into the big box with the cricketing gurus, naturally armoured with their gen about all the gullies, the leg sides, the offside and the boundary, beating sexism with their poise and grace. Most spectators learned to unmute and listen to Bedi, Langer, Guha instead of focussing on their “oomph quotient”
In 2017, Claire Polosak was the first woman as the umpire of the men’s OD and in three years ICC inducted 12 women officials to the International Panel of ICC.

Development Umpire proving that cricket for women wasn’t just an amateur pursuit. More brands backed the girls with sponsorship and endorsements with their groundbreaking steady on-field performance.

In 2020, the girls took the viewership to a different level with a record of 1.1 billion views across ICC platforms. 87 countries participate in the T20 level with 56 ICC ranking, although there are 11 teams across the world that hold ranking in ODI. That surely marked the sign of times, the gladiatrices left their gladiator slippers behind and swapped them with some fine rubber spikes. Boy, they just got playing.
An advertisement by a renowned chocolate company in the ’90s dedicated to cricket lovers has recently seen a gender swap, with a man cheering a ‘batswoman’ on her winning run has been received with accolades that conquer gender bias.

“Cricket is not gender-biased. It isn’t that men’s cricket is different and women’s a different one.”- Mithali Raj, captain of the Indian women’s cricket team.

Women’s cricket has been sustaining despite the comparison, however, the time has come to understand its own premises with impartiality and receptiveness. Coloured jerseys have replaced the coloured ribbons and the ladies are finally seeing the sunshine they deserve. The cricketing gals are far from relenting, they have paved their way into the boys’ circuit with their sheer grit, a vision to improve their game and “roobish” the wagging tongues.

Ellyse Perry the beautiful damsel, represented Australia in both FIFA and Cricket World Cup, caused much distress by scoring 90 runs in 95 balls with a run rate of 94.73, while getting the wicket of Sarah Taylor. The world that considered cricket as a gentlemen’s pursuit bobbed their eyes as they watched the “grasshoppers” catapult. Women across continents including wartorn ones, from nook and crannies, have embraced the sport with a newer zeal defeating disapproval and vetos.

“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” – Bethany Hamilton.