In this Specials edition, we take a look at the history and current scenario of women’s Test cricket around the world. Cricket might be universally known as the Gentlemen’s game, but women too have been playing Test cricket since 1934-35.
Dwindling Number Of Tests
Unfortunately, the number of Women’s Tests are dwindling at a furious pace. A mere four Tests have been played in the last six seasons – highlighting the predicament of the longest format when it comes to Women’s cricket. The latest instance of a Test was in January 2011, when Australia Women beat England Women by 7 wickets in a one-off Test at the Bankstown Oval in Sydney. So far, ten nations have played Tests, which includes the top eight nations plus Ireland and Netherlands. But in spite of a 78 year-old history, only four nations have played more than 12 Tests – England (89), Australia (69), New Zealand (45) and India (34).
In all, just 133 Tests have been played since Australia Women and England Women contested the first ever Women’s Test at Brisbane in 1934-35, a game which England Women won by 9 wickets. Not surprisingly, 45 of the 133 Tests have been Australia v England contests, Australia holding a 11-8 edge. The last Test which was not an Australia-England encounter was back in 2007, when Netherlands Women played their first and only Test against South Africa Women at Rotterdam – the hosts lost by 159 runs. Both Australia and England have the most wins, with 19 each.
The highest total in a Women’s Test is 569/6, made by Australia against England at Guildford in 1998, while the lowest is 35 by England against Australia at Melbourne in 1957-58. Among individual records, England’s Jan Brittin is the highest run-getter with 1935, followed by her countrywoman Rachael Heyhoe-Flint with a tally of 1594. Brittin also holds the record of playing most number of Tests – 27 from 1979-1998, and the most hundreds – 5. The leading wicket-taker is England’s Mary Duggan, who took 77 wickets including a sensational 7/6 against Australia at Melbourne in 1957-58.
The best bowling figures in an innings are left-armer Neetu David’s 8/53 for India against England at Jamshedpur in 1995-96, while Pakistan’s leg-break bowler Shazia Khan holds the record for the best match-figures – she took 13/226 against West Indies Women at Karachi in 2003-04. Another Pakistani, Kiran Baluch, has the highest individual score – 242 in the same match mentioned above. Australia’s medium pacer Rene Farrell is the only woman to take a Test hat trick – she achieved he feat in the 2010-11 Sydney Test mentioned above. The ground where the most Tests have been staged is the County Ground in Worcester, which has hosted 9 Tests.
The Origin Of Overarm Bowling
When cricket originated, all bowlers delivered the ball underarm where the bowler’s hand is below waist height. However, so the story goes, in the early 1800’s, John Willes became the first bowler to use a ’round-arm’ technique after practicing with his sister Christina, who had used the technique, as she was unable to bowl underarm due to her wide dress impeding her delivery of the ball. Christina, due to her dress, basically invented overarm bowling – undoubtedly the single most important contribution by a woman to the game of cricket.
Hall Of Fame
Two Women’s Test cricketers have been included in the ICC Hall Of Fame – Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who represented England in 22 Tests from 1960-1979 and Australian batswoman Belinda Clark, who played in 15 Tests from 1991-2005 – were inducted into the prestigious list in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Twenty20 Takes Over
It is evident that the Twenty20 format is now regarded as the most popular and most frequently-played format when it comes to Women’s Cricket. 186 Women’s Twenty20 internationals have been contested since the inaugural match was played between England and New Zealand at Hove in August 2004 – interestingly, 6 months before the first Men’s Twenty20 international. In the same period, only 11 Women’s Tests have been played, thus signifying that sadly, the extinction of Women’s Tests might be a possibility. Surely, Twenty20 has proved to become the most viable format for Women’s cricket – both for the players and spectators, and the Women’s World Twenty20 is being held simultaneously along with the corresponding Men’s event since 2009.
Apathy of the Administrators
Hardly any efforts are made to promote Women’s cricket, and this leads to negligible media coverage and extremely low spectator turn-out. Women’s cricket needs to be marketed properly to generate interest and innovations like a new dress code must be brought in – but that is not happening.
The 10th Women’s 50 overs World Cup is scheduled to be held in India in January 2013 – a tournament that will, to a certain extent determine how much importance is being given to the Women’s game by the administrators.