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The Times, they are a-changin’

Last updated on 04 Apr 2023 | 09:31 AM
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The Times, they are a-changin’

With so many T20 leagues for women, economic opportunities have bloomed and as a result, the landscape of women’s cricket is rapidly changing worldwide

Lizelle Lee. Deandra Dottin. Dane Van Niekerk

This list above may continue to grow in the upcoming years. The bug of T20 franchise cricket has bitten women’s cricket, and the effects are visible all over. Early retirements taken by the three players mentioned above is just one of the symptoms of a definitive change that women’s cricket worldwide is staring at. 

Lizelle Lee had fitness-related issues. Consequently, distrust was built between her and the cricket board. She chose retirement, similar to what Van Niekerk would do recently. 

Deandra Dottin was playing for Barbados in the recent Commonwealth Games when she cited issues with the Windies team environment and her resultant inability to perform in a letter that announced her retirement from international cricket. 

Dane Van Niekerk’s retirement came after a controversial snub following being unable to clear the fitness requirements set by Cricket South Africa by just a few seconds. Her goodbye to South African and international cricket will remain one of the most emotional moments for the cricketing world this year, as it remained a point of conversation throughout the WPL. 

All these three women athletes were not only the best performers and leaders of their teams, but also stalwarts of women’s cricket internationally. Their early retirements took the entire cricketing fraternity by surprise. However, suppose one keeps aside the primary reasons for their retirements which require much discussion and debate. In that case, it's easy to see what else allowed these ladies to make these career-defining decisions. 

Women’s cricket is no longer just reliant on international fixtures. T20 franchise cricket dominates the women’s calendar now, as big T20 leagues have sprouted in almost every major cricketing nation. 

The Australians have the WBBL, the Kiwis have the Super Smash, the Indians have the WPL now, the English have The Hundred, and even the Caribbeans have the women’s CPL. Pakistan is moving in the same direction as exhibition T20 league matches were held alongside the men’s PSL this year. 

The newly started SA20 league in South Africa is also gearing up for a women’s version very soon. Fair Break Global is another such tournament with high participation from Associate women cricketers, with many from full-member nations also being its part. 

These leagues offer top women cricketers worldwide an extra opportunity to increase their income from the national contracts. In fact, as already proved by the WPL, many of the contracts in these different T20 leagues are much higher than the national contracts. Hence, it’s very evident now that the groundwork for freelance women cricketers has already been laid.

If you are amongst the top 10 or 15 women cricketers in your country, you don’t need to rely on your national cricket boards for survival in cricket. You can now be a free agent and offer your services to these leagues. Chances are high that you might end up wealthier just playing these leagues than having played for your country. 

Men’s cricket faced the same situation in the last decade where many international cricketers went away from their cricket boards for various reasons (not limited to mistrust, corruption, mishandling etc), and became freelancers. The likes of Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle etc became pioneers in this. So when another player from the Caribbean Dottin took the same route, it wasn’t exactly surprising. However, in the context of women’s cricket as a whole it was a huge novelty. 

Such new developments also point out to the fact that cricket boards worldwide, especially the ones who struggle with their finances (basically every cricket board outside the Big 3), are going to lose their talents in which they have invested since the start. 

This also means that administering these boards is a big challenge now as handling the players requires a sturdy balance between fulfilling player demands and maintaining the board’s interests. West Indies and South African cricket boards are already bearing the brunt of administrative failures. 

Times are changing in women’s cricket. It’s no longer a monopsony. The wave of new economic opportunities in the form of T20 leagues has rocked the beach. Bob Dylan in this case has great advice to offer to women’s cricket stakeholders worldwide - 

The order is rapidly fadin'

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin'

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