Women's cricket's focus should be on limited-overs formats until 10-15 teams start playing high-quality T-20 matches but Tests should not be forgotten, feel former stars, Belinda Clark and Ian Bishop. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has granted Test status to each and every full-member women's team. Countries like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan have joined India, Australia, England, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand in playing the longest format.
"I think the focus for the women's game needs to continue on the shorter format to 20 and 50 over," former Australia skipper Clark said on Monday. She was speaking during a virtual press conference, organised to launch 100% Cricket Future Leaders Programme -- a mentorship programme for all female future leaders in the game.
"If our objective is to spread the game globally, and grow depths in the teams that are completely competing internationally, you need a focus and that needs to be directed at certain formats. Otherwise, what will happen is everyone will spend a little bit of money on everything, and nothing actually will change. The success we've seen in the last five years has really come from that focus into the shorter format.
"I'd be hesitant to move away from that until such time as we've got 10 or 15 nations that are playing high-quality T-20," she added.
The Indian and England women's team are set to play a historic one-off Test in June in Bristol. While the visiting team will take part in a Test for the first time since 2014, the hosts last played a red-ball game during the 2019 Ashes. Bishop, a former West Indies pace bowler and now a commentator, feels while the focus should be on growing white-ball cricket first, Tests should not be forgotten as many young women aspire to play in the longest format.
"It's quite correct that the focus is where it needs to be most but I do know, several young women who yearn to play a Test match. Unfortunately, they've come up at a time where the women don't really play Test match cricket in most of the nations," Bishop said.
"Hopefully, down the road, we are able to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of these women. I hope it is a continuous journey and it won't stop at just white-ball cricket."
Recently, a popular cricket website announced that it will replace the term 'batsman' with 'batter' in order to be more gender-neutral, and Bishop feels it is imperative that one listens to the needs of the women. "I think it's a point that I feel very passionate about the words, the word years ago wasn't normalized stuff. And it may sound like semantics to particularly those on the other side of the divide.
"But if we want our mothers, our sisters, our daughters to have equality in this room, then we need to start with small things. "No one knows the needs of a certain group of people, like those people were actually in that group. And they were asking and requesting for stuff when it is adamant that we sit and we listen."
Clark and former South African cricketer Steve Elworthy, who is the managing director of events and special projects at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), also agreed that language is vital in inclusion. "It's critical, language is very important. It sends signals to young girls and sends signals to young boys about what the game is for. The terminology used in the game in the laws by the commentators is absolutely critical to ensure that the game is inclusive and that everyone understands that there's a place for them in it," Clark said.
"I think it's about smashing those sorts of unconscious biases. And making sure that we do make a sport that is fully inclusive from a sporting point of view, we've got to get this right. And it's part of the journey," Elworthy added.
The ICC mentorship program is designed to support emerging female talent in cricket across administration, coaching and officiating, broadcast, and journalism as well as marketing, digital and technology and events. The programme is designed to address the low percentage of women in leadership positions in global cricket and build a pipeline of new female leaders in the sport.
The programme will last for a period of six months and include a kick-off workshop with Clark, followed by monthly check-ins and a three-month review with the mentees and mentors agreeing to the frequency and method of communication. Other confirmed mentors include Bishop, ICC chairman Greg Barclay, former Pakistan women's team skipper Sana Mir, PCB CEO Wasim Khan, Indian journalist Sharda Ugra, and Dhiraj Malhotra, GM Cricket Operations and Game Development, BCCI.