RAY OF HOPE
Plans are being drawn up for some women’s internationals later in the summer with a tri-series against India and South Africa, a potential option. © Getty
Following the resumption of individual training for a number of England men’s squad on Thursday (May 21), the women’s national team could follow suit in a matter of weeks in preparation for international matches the ECB hope to be able to hold towards the end of the summer.
Earlier this month, Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, had said that the women’s game may have to take a back seat to the men’s this season in order to minimise the financial damage to the wider game in England and Wales and protect the longer-term health of women’s cricket. The potential that no women’s international matches would be played was not ruled out.
At that stage England’s ODI and T20I series against India’s women had been postponed – not cancelled – and although South Africa’s visit in September remained in place as planned, Connor cautioned that those games may have had to fall by the wayside in order to play the more lucrative men’s fixtures.
However, Connor was more upbeat today as the ECB launched their Together Through This Test initiative, aiming to help the public through the COVID-19 pandemic. She confirmed that plans are being drawn up for some women’s internationals later in the summer with a tri-series against India and South Africa a potential option, should there be no time to fit in separate series.
“We’re still really committed to being able to play as much as of our international women’s programme later on in the summer,” Connor said to PA news agency. “Whether that’s two separate series against India and South Africa or even a tri-series, which is something we are exploring. All we can do is make the plans to be able to play and work with the venues that are likely to be involved in putting on that behind-closed-doors programme.”
England’s players will need to have a sustained period of training ahead of any international matches and while Connor thinks any return to practice for the women’s squad will be a few weeks off yet, she confirmed the protocols introduced for the men’s players, including strict social distancing and the use of individualised equipment, will be the same for the women.
“Those same individualised return to training protocols will apply to the women’s players,” she said. “We’re looking to follow a very similar phased approach from later on in June so we’ll probably be three to four weeks behind the England men’s players.
“That’s not through any lesser importance being placed on them but more of a reality of who’s likely to play first and where we need to focus the immediate attention and physical and medical support. At least it will give our players, support staff and medical staff a chance to learn from how all that unfolds with the men.”
The ECB announced on Wednesday that 24 women’s domestic players were being offered financial retainers to offer them some form of security in light of the decision to postpone the introduction of 40 full-time professional contracts which were due this year. Although the retainers are of a lower value than the contracts, the ECB hope it will provide some financial relief for those players who would have expected to get a full-time deal this season.
While the ECB have decided to introduce the retainers, there are plenty more financial decisions to be made across both the wider game and women’s cricket in particular. Given the ECB is facing losses of anywhere between 100m – 380m pounds this year, both Connor and Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the ECB, have repeatedly refused to ring-fence the two-year 20m pounds investment into women’s and girl’s cricket announced last October.
However, Connor re-emphasised the ECB’s commitment to a gender balanced game despite the difficult financial decisions that will have to be made in light of COVID-19. “I remain really confident that the momentum we’ve built behind the women’s game will be protected to the absolute best of our endeavours,” Connor said. “There is a very strong desire to protect the investment into the women’s and girls’ game.”
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