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Ref: Velija, P, Ratna, A and Flintoff, A (2010) Women at the Wicket:
The Development of Women's Cricket in England and Overseas. In Rumford, C and Wagg, S. Cricket and Globalization, Cambridge Press . Chapter Six

(Time of writing 2009)

With the recent success of the England Women's Cricket Team, there are some who wrongly perceive that the women's game is a new phenomenon (WCA, 2009). However, this is not the case and, like other women's sports, evidence suggests that women have been playing since the eighteenth century (McCrone, 1988). Arguably, women's relative invisibility in the world of cricket is the result of various factors, including the lack of media given to the women's game, the (poor) image of the game and the residual perceptions of cricket as a 'man's sport' (Velija and Malcolm, 2009). In media debates about cricket, women's involvement in the game is marginalised in favour of focussing on men's competitions, despite the International success of the England Women's Team (Velija, 2007). Academic studies have also rendered women's participation in cricket largely invisible because the majority of research, both on English Cricket and the International game, has focused on men's cricket (Davies, 2008). Historical accounts that do consider women's early participation, have mainly documented their struggles to play during Victorian times and changes to their involvement before, during and after the World Wars. In the late 20th century, the significance and future of the game and, in particular, the impact of the merger between the Women's Cricket Association in England (WCA) the (men's) Cricket Board (ECB) in 1998 as well as global developments in the game, is a relatively overlooked area of research. By drawing on minutes from the WCA Annual General Meetings, media articles and comments in the Women's Cricket magazine ('Women's Wicket'), in this chapter we focus on the opportunities and challenges involved in this recent period of transition. In particular, we locate these changes within the global context and International development of the women.s game. This paper will explore issues in the development of the women's game in two parts; part one will explore the formation and development of the WCA in relation to the International position of women.s cricket at this time; and part two will consider the impact of the merger on women's cricket, nationally and internationally.


The WCA was formed in 1926 by female cricketers during a cricketing holiday in Malvern (Heyhoe Flint and Rheinberg, 1976). As we have already observed, however, women were playing cricket some years prior to this, predominantly at girls' schools, colleges and universities. Davies (2008), for example, refers to cricket being played at the Brighouse Ladies Cricket Club in the North of England in 1898. The formation of a women's cricket governing body after World War One is reflective of wider social changes in society at this time. As argued elsewhere (Hargreaves, 1994:113), women were increasingly given the opportunity to transcend the boundaries of private life, enabling them to enter the public spaces of work, sport and leisure. The fact that just one year after its formation, in 1927 the WCA could report that it had recruited 347 members, with 10 affiliated Clubs who had played 49 matches, suggests that women's cricket was growing in size and popularity at this time (WCA, 2009). Crucially, the formation of the WCA provided the sport with a structure and a central form of organisation. From its outset, the WCA stated that the development of the women.s game could be achieved through the following aims:

encouraging the formation of Cricket Clubs throughout the country

providing facilities for, and bring together by means of touring teams and one day matches, those women and girls who previously had little opportunity of playing cricket after leaving school and college (Williams, 1999).

For instance, in the first edition of the WCA.s monthly magazine, one .gentleman. declared:

Cricket for females is a preposterous idea. I felt sorrow and dismay at the idea that another field of male activities was to be usurped by the fairer sex, cricket is degraded ... let us have this one spot to ourselves ... let us pray women never gain admittance to the Pavilion at Lord's (cited in WCA monthly magazine, 1930:10).

In order to combat, or at least, reduce this hostility, the WCA attempted to market the women's game as separate and different from the men's game. An example of this can be seen in a chapter written by Marjorie Pollard, editor of the WCA magazine 'Women's Wicket' in the 1930s, about cricket coaching. She states:

We always recognised our limitations, no one tried to bowl too fast. [We wanted] cricket of our own, we did not want to play cricket like the men. We wanted to play women's cricket (Pollard, 1930:30).

Despite such contention, the WCA in England continued to develop and thrive throughout the 1930s. At this time, the only other Nation to have a Women's Cricket Association was New Zealand, whose Women's Cricket Council had formed in 1928. Despite there being no other formal governing bodies, there is evidence to suggest that women were playing cricket at this time in South Africa, India and Holland (Heyhoe Flint and Rheinberg, 1976).

In 1934/35, a milestone in the women's game came as the women's England team was sent to Australia and New Zealand. The players were told that they would need to pay their own expenses, thus indicating that those playing during this period were wealthy enough to pay expensive travel costs (WCA, 2009). In preparation for the event, the women played a match at Old Trafford, the first time that women had used a Test ground (Heyhoe Flint and Rheinberg, 1976). The itinerary was fourteen matches, including three three-day Test matches. Ironically, in recent years, the Ashes have been decided by one Test match which, according to some, is a step backwards for the women's game. Some players have called for the redevelopment of women's test cricket (Edwards and Greenway cited in Women's Cricket Associates Newsletter, 2009). The 'mythical ashes' were easily won by England, who returned home unbeaten. The higher quality of the England team compared to the Australian team may reflect the relatively late formation of the Australian Women's Cricket Council (AWCC) in 1931, six years after the formation of the English WCA. However, despite the late formation of the National governing body, there is evidence of women's cricket being played in Australia since 1855. Furthermore, individual States in Australia had organising Committees as early as 1905.

During the 1934/35 series England played on the Test grounds at Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, access to such prestigious Test grounds had been something that they had struggled to achieve back home. This access to top class grounds by the Australian team suggests that male support and acceptance of women's cricket may have been more forthcoming than in the UK. As a consequence of their experience in Australia, the WCA were encouraged to be more critical of the facilities they had in England (Heyhoe Flint and Rheinberg, 1976). Despite this, women did not play at Lord's until 1976, demonstrating how male cricketers have continued to dominate cricketing structures and facilities such as the MCC and Lord's in the UK. In fact, the MCC, notorious for their exclusionary practices, did not allow female members until 1998, a key attempt to ensure their hegemonic position of cricket (Shaw and Slack, 2002).

Australia sent a team to England in 1937. They set sail and arrived on 3rd May 1937. The tour rules for the team included: a ban on husbands or friends travelling with players; a prohibition of drinking, gambling and smoking; an insistence that players were in bed by 10 p.m. and not allowing players to write articles on cricket. The reason for this is unclear, but may be related to the desire to ensure that women concentrated on playing the game and to ensure the women did not receive negative publicity. During the tour, such rules demonstrate that despite the amateur nature of the game, tours were beginning to be organised in a professional manner and, moreover, also suggest a concern with female propriety. Such concern with female propriety is also evident in the attitudes of those involved in the WCA. In accordance to their social class and heritage, the members of the WCA were keen to organise the game in line with the values of men's cricket (Williams, 1999). These emphasised 'gentlemanly' conduct, playing fairly and the importance of the amateur status.

Arguably, these measures were used in and through sport to distinguish their upper and middle class sensibilities from those of working class women (Hargreaves, 1994). Moreover, as these women were already defying Victorian ideals of femininity by playing a male sport (Hargreaves, 1994); they did not wish to disrupt the dominant gender order any further.

Pollard (1976:150) notes, the social construction of class and gender continued to be a significant force impacting upon the cricket participation of women: 'we stuck to the simple principles: strict order and decorum, no official cricket with or against men; and no official games on Sunday'. Despite the developments of the women's game, it was clear during this period that the men.s historical dominance of the game, coupled with better finances, meant that women were often reliant on men for support of their game. Writing in the WCA publications at this time, Pollard insists that it was important that women should not offend the men, stressing that they had to rely 'on the good faith and support of men' if they wanted to use their facilities. The development of women's cricket continued to be affected by the hegemony of men and men's cricket, as well as dominant ideologies about the (weaker) physicality of women and the role of women in the wider social contexts.


Another England tour of Australia and New Zealand commenced in 1948, signalling that the women's game was becoming internationalised. Interestingly, after the Second World War, there are signs that the women's game was developing in other countries too. For instance, in 1953, the South African and Rhodesian Women's Cricket Association formed. The international development of women's cricket during this period is marked by the formation of the International Women's Cricket Council in 1958. The organisation was founded after discussions between the dominant cricket nations, England, Australia, Holland, New Zealand and South Africa. At the inaugural meeting, it was decided that a newsletter should be produced. However, the time consuming nature of this, given that those involved in the IWCC were volunteers who had roles in their National governing bodies as well, meant that the newsletter did not survive for long and it is noted in WCA reports that communication between member nations was difficult to maintain (WCA, 2009). The organisation continued to develop by arranging meetings to plan tours and they would discuss tour schedules. However, it is evident that the IWCC struggled with the development and marketing of the organisation and, because of limited funds, tours were left to the organisation of individual countries with little financial or practical support from them (WCA, 2009).

Further important global developments included the introduction of the first World Cup in 1973, held in England and won by the host nation. Surprisingly, even with all the financial resources and facilities available to men's cricket, it was the women who devised the template for this successful global event (Heyhoe Flint, 1978). One of the reasons that the women were able to organise such a competition was due to the influence of Heyhoe Flint, who was able to seek the support of British born millionaire Jack Hayward, who paid £40,000 to support the Women's Cricket World Cup; without this private funding, the event could not have taken place (Heyhoe Flint, 1978). The teams playing for the World Cup in 1973 were England, Young England, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago and an International XI. The inclusion of an International XI team was the result of South Africa being unable to participate, as the West Indian teams refused to compete if South Africa played (Heyhoe Flint, 1978). Given the contemporary debate about sporting competitions and Apartheid, the WCA wanted to be seen to be in line with men's cricket and other sporting teams who refused to play South Africa in protest. The final was played at Edgbaston and won by England. The following World Cup was played in India in 1978. At the IWCC meeting in conjunction with the 1978 World Cup, it was noted that the IWCC would need to take a more proactive role in the organisation of World Cup events. Subsequent World Cups held under the auspices of the IWCC were 1982 in New Zealand, 1988 in Australia, 1993 in England, 1997 in India, 2000 in New Zealand (ICC, 2009). The Indian World Cup in 1997 also suffered from a lack of funds.

The Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI), at this time a separate organisation from the men's, struggled to host an international tournament and relied on assistance from businesses and local people to host the event (Davies, 1998). As Davies (1998) notes in his discussion with the organiser of the event the Secretary of the WCAI, that her job within cricket was voluntary and she also worked as a partner in a law firm.

Arguably, one of the reasons that events went ahead was the commitment of individual players who paid for their own travel. For example, in order to attend the World Cup event in Australia in 1998 (WCA, 1987:16), the WCA minutes show that England players were informed that they would have to pay around 25% of the overall costs. Therefore, the accolade of being selected to represent their country brought with it significant financial implications for individual players.

Many players worked tirelessly to raise funds in order to meet their ambitions to play world-class, international cricket. Some had to take unpaid leave from their work in order to tour; less fortunate others found they no longer had a job to return to at all! All returned financially worse off (Heyhoe Flint and Rheinberg, 1976).

When England next hosted this international tournament in 1993, financing of the event was very problematic. Difficulties in attracting funding meant that it was nearly cancelled. The competition was only saved by a Government Sport and Arts Foundation grant as well as financial support from the MCC (Collins, 1993). The issue of funding was an ongoing problem for the WCA and, as discussed below, critical in their decision to merge with the ECB. During the latter part of the twentieth century, many women's cricket playing nations experienced similar financial difficulties to those of the WCA in England. Indeed, struggles over the national development of the game were also mirrored at international levels of governance (Plant, 1973). As a result of such difficulties, the IWCC eventually merged with the ICC in 2005.


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