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Here’s How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted Women’s Cricket

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The Women’s World T20 in Australia was completed in the nick of time, with various countries across the globe announcing travel bans and lockdowns in just a few days after the showpiece event which had led to the cancellation of all ongoing cricket among the men’s teams.

The men’s teams seem to have emerged out of the crisis and have started playing again with England taking on West Indies and then Pakistan at home. Women’s cricket, however, is yet to see the light of day, leading to the belief that the momentum created by the teams after the Women’s World T20 in Australia will be lost as they would have to start from scratch again to reach the same levels of performance and brilliance that the world saw during that tournament in Australia.

In fact, the situation had become so grim that former Indian captain Mithali Raj was forced to admit that the coronavirus pandemic may have set back growth of women’s cricket by two years. Even the former Indian veteran Anjum Chopra believes that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be deeper than visible.

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However, as it turns out, it has not been as gloom and doom as many have feared, but rather some positives seem to have come out of this. This article will help you understand the impact the pandemic has had on women’s cricket in general.

Cancellation of Women’s Cricket Tours

The most immediate impact of the pandemic was the cancellation of all forthcoming tours in Women’s cricket. The first canceled tour was that of Australia traveling to South Africa in March for a 3-match ODI series and a 3-match T20I series. With Australia, having some mixed results in the World T20 before a dominating display in the finals, facing an ever-improving South African side, the series would have been quite interesting.

Subsequently, a women’s quadrangular series between Ireland, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe and the hosts Thailand was canceled in early March 2020. Although it was a low-key series in comparison, it meant that the four countries may not get adequate game time going into the qualifiers for the World Cup. With no cricket being played since then, they will have to rediscover their game in order to perform well in the Qualifiers.

Sri Lanka were also expected to host New Zealand in April for an ODI and T20I series. However, even that tour had to be called off.

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However, the most heart-breaking tour cancellation was India’s tour of England in June-July. It was felt that the situation would improve enough to allow them to tour the country in what seemed to be an intriguing prospect with India having the better of England on many occasions recently. However, the tour was shelved in April which left many players thinking when they would be able to play cricket again or will they have enough practice to perform well in the World Cup.

Announcement of Direct Qualification to Women’s World Cup

An important announcement was made by the ICC in April in which it awarded split points for all tours which could not go ahead due to the pandemic. As a result, South Africa and India qualified for the World Cup, sharing their points against their opponents Australia and Pakistan respectively. Sri Lanka and New Zealand also had to share the points of the series that they would have played against each other. However, with New Zealand being the hosts and Sri Lanka already too far behind in the points tally, this made no difference to their overall standings. Therefore, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and West Indies will be competing against seven other teams in the Qualifiers tournament in order to seek qualification to the World Cup.

Pakistan were left disappointed as they had hoped that they would be awarded full points as they were in 2016. However, it was not to be as India had communicated their difficulties in playing Pakistan due to Government clearance this time round. If the full points were awarded to Pakistan for their series against India, it would have been Pakistan qualifying directly for the World Cup and India having to play in the Qualifiers.

Postponement of Women’s World Cup and Qualifier event

Another disappointment in women’s cricket was the shock announcement of the postponement of the World Cup in New Zealand by another year to 2022. ICC had reasoned that the teams would not be as prepared as they would like to be in order to compete at this level owing to the lack of cricket in the months after the pandemic, a concern that was earlier raised by Australian captain Meg Lanning and Indian spinner Poonam Yadav. ICC had also postponed the Qualifiers tournament to 2021 to give the competing teams more time to prepare for this event.

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In what many would consider this as a right move by the ICC, there were some who were left dejected by this news. Heather Knight, the England captain slated to defend the title, said after the announcement that she thought that the event still looked quite ‘feasible’ for 2021 itself. She went on to say, “Hopefully it’s not an excuse for boards to put women’s cricket on the back burner for the next 12 months with no WC to prepare for.”

Announcement of Women’s T20 Challenge in the UAE

Recently, it was announced that the third edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge will be held in the UAE between November 1st to November 10th in what may have eased the nerves of many women cricketers. The tournament, like last year, is slated to be a three-team tournament with a total of four matches being played. This is going to be the first time that the Women’s T20 Challenge will be held outside India and is anticipated to be another important milestone for Women’s cricket in India.

However, because of the scheduling, we might see some big names missing from this competition with the Women’s Big Bash League being played at the same time. Many top international players may prefer the Big Bash League ahead of the Women’s T20 Challenge and would give this edition a miss. However, it might mean that there will be many upcoming players who have not been considered for the WBBL participating in this tournament, including many from the Asian nations, which can be good practice for those girls.

Mithali Raj Set to be the Cricketer with Longest Career Among Both Men and Women

An indirect consequence of the pandemic would be record-breaking and a moment of pride for women’s cricket. Owing to the postponement of the World Cup in New Zealand, if Mithali Raj ends up playing in the competition, she would have played for 22 years and eight months and would take the crown from the legend Sachin Tendulkar and become the cricketer having the longest career span in years among both men and women. This achievement would go down in history and will stay for many years.

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In conclusion, the pandemic may have seen some dark and grim days for women’s cricket. However, considering the wealth of talent in the women’s game and the spirit of fighting through adversity, they are sure to bounce back and show the world that they can still co-exist with their male superstars and that they cannot be easily forgotten and left behind.

I do wish it to be true and hope to watch an entertaining and closely-fought Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2022, just like the 2017 World Cup and this years’ World T20.

Image Credit: New Indian Express

This article was published first in Female Cricket. The views expressed are the author’s own.