Exciting plans for Irish cricket
Calling on all Leinster, and Irish clubs
“Build your Women's teams – for the future is now”
It's now only 6 weeks until the Irish Women's cricket team head off for their T20 World Cup adventure in India. It is a hugely exciting time to be part of Irish Women's cricket, both on and off the pitch. As well as the forthcoming World Cup, two of our squad have just returned from Australia having been part of the Women’s Big Bash tournament there. Kim Garth and Laura Delany both spent several weeks with a franchise, Kim with the Hobart Hurricanes and Laura with the Sydney Scorchers! What an experience, what an opportunity for both of them. Here’s hoping more girls get their chance in seasons to come.
On the domestic front and with a mandate to bring Irish Women’s cricket to the very top world level, Cricket Ireland recently met with the Cricket Leinster Women's committee meeting to discuss the 2016 season, with both sides putting forward all of their plans and developments. It was a meeting that contained a few surprises for me: plenty of internationals at home for the Irish team; huge new plans in place for the Super 3 tournament; and the possibility of as many as 6 Australian contracted players coming over to coach, mentor and play in Leinster Division 1 and the Super 3's competition.
As part of the plans to improve Irish Women’s cricket and also as a consequence of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) overhauling their own competitions (more on this later), Cricket Ireland have chose not to take part in the ECB County Championships this summer.
These Championships had in recent years provided the Irish Women with regular competitive cricket, albeit with every game played in England, but the plan now is to develop our cricketers and not England’s. Cricket Ireland are hoping to invest more into the Super 3's competition as a stepping stone between Club and International cricket as well as building a stronger and more appealing (to players, sponsors and spectators) women's cricket brand within Ireland.
As a first step into this more professional (in attitude rather than payment) age, Cricket Ireland have asked the Cricket Leinster committee to approach clubs, and ascertain the opinions with regard to bringing up to 6 Australian contracted players into our league system. The idea being to raise the standards of training and playing of Division One cricket and exposing as many players as possible to professional cricketers. This season will see 8 teams - Rush, Merrion, YMCA, The Hills, North Kildare, Leinster, Malahide and Pembroke –in Division 1.
The general consensus from people I have spoken to about this subject seems to be very positive in principle, and delight that such efforts are being put into Women’s cricket in Ireland.
The ECB are also undertaking a radical overhaul of their system, starting with their own version of the Australian T20 competition (WBBL) this summer. No doubt they will invite the top players from around the world and maybe include a few Irish players too. Whilst this would reduce the number of available world class players such as Meg Lanning, it would not take all of them, allowing Cricket Ireland to offer opportunities to some really top class players.
One question posed would be to which Clubs any overseas players would be allocated to and where would they provide the most value. One suggestion is that maybe a Division 1 and Division 2/3 club would come together, sharing coaching across both clubs and the accommodation cost.
Cricket Ireland is presently developing a workingand mutually beneficial relationship with Cricket Australia. This could be a major step and would allow us to send Irish players down under and further strengthen our leagues with their gained experience and knowledge.
Whilst all of these plans seem to be designed to benefit our top tiers of Women’s cricket, everyone is very aware that junior women's cricket, including Division 2 and 3 must continue to flourish and grow.Without the grassroots, the top tier would not survive and regardless of whether you are a social cricketer, a recent convert to cricket or coming up through the ranks, it is all hugely important and we must pay more attention and not neglect this area of Women's cricket.
An analysis of the numbers, and the age profile of all players, there is a big gap for players in their early to mid 20's. This could have a knock on effectfor the national team as well as Clubs and makes recruitment and retention even more important. This is a common trend across all sports in Ireland and beyond, but could putting more investment and emphasis on coaching, management and support for all cricket, junior and senior, help this problem?
The cricket authorities are doing much work to be praised, especially with regard to under age cricket. There is a full programme of games for the girls and it is certainly looking like a busy and exciting summer ahead. Providing our younger girls with a higher standard of cricket, against players of their own age, is a start and surely has to become a regular experience. Under 17, under 15 and under 13 tournaments abroad have been arranged and whilst it seems our numbers and talent pool in these age groups are positively growing we do have to put structures in place to encourage and nurture them going forward, and being mentored by a group of great coaches and managers is one more positive step.
My viewpoint comes from my experiences with the Irish national team, the new Super 3’s tournament and my Club cricket as well as my position on the Cricket Leinster Committee. However, I would ask that all clubs undertake a review of their players, their coaching and their recruitment to ensure Women’s cricket goes from strength to strength in their club. Cricket Leinster are available to everyone who wants, needs or desires assistance.
Just as all Women’s sport is changing, so is cricket. Women’s football has benefitted greatly from media exposure especially Stephanie Roche’s award winning goal. Women’s rugby is blooming with Ireland winning the Six Nations, and even the GAA is taking large steps to help camogue and women’s gaelic football expand. Cricket can not and should not miss the boat or else it could put our sport back years.
We have a duty to ensure that no club, no player, is left behind. Coaching across all 3 Divisions must be consistent and available to all. The Ireland team will benefit, now and going forward, from the positive styles of cricket being adopted by all and promoted through uniform and transferable coaching methods. Clubs should encourage each and every team to appoint a team manager. This reduces the administration burden, or at least shares it, and being prepared helps everyone. Whether trying to attract new players; develop team spirirt; or provide guidance, it helps everyone if there is an organised unit with defined roles fulfilled.
For those players who are not currently involved with the Super 3's, but would like to experience the longer 40 over format of the game, it has been suggested that a form of the Pilkington Cup, be re-instated but only for players over 16 years of age, and are not involved in representative cricket. Why would it be for over 16’s only? The current thinking is that our underage girls are playing enough cricketalready. In some cases they're playing under 13, under 15, under 17, second XI cricket in divisions 2or 3 and also first team cricket, if not adding in Super 3 cricket. This approach would allow some shall we say more experienced heads to come return to the game, play more cricket and have a good day out in the sun (Irish weather permitting) batting for 40 overs, if there is sufficient interest and numbers. Clubs will be contacted shortly by Cricket Leinster to see if the desire exists.
There is so much good work being done in each club around the province and indeed the country, and in general most clubs are trying to grow their Women's sections. Having a Women’s section has many benefits for a Club, and not just on the field. It expands a club’s reach into the community and increases the Clubs membership as well as bringing new and fresh ideas. New players bring new spectators, new administrators and being inclusive brings greater sponsorship opportunities and new relationships with companies and organisations.
In this new world of instant messaging and social media, pushing your club out on all social media platforms has become so very important – blogging, re-blogging, liking and sharing all succeed in promoting your club and the sport in general. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat (other social media outlets are available) all give everyone opportunities to inform and promote and we need to take them.
If you feel you or your Club need help, guidance or assistance, please, please do reach out – there is lots of good people within Leinster cricket as well as Cricket Leinster, that will help in any way they can whether as a coach, a manager or just pass on their experience and knowledge. If you do not know who to contact, then by all means, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if I don’t have an answer, I can at least pass your questions or requests to the right people. .