Sarah Taylor playing men's cricket can only be a good thing
England’s wicket keeper batsman Sarah Taylor has revealed in an interview with the Guardian that she is in talks with Sussex County Cricket club to play men’s 2nd XI cricket in the forthcoming season.
Taylor is one of the most talented cricketers the women’s game has ever produced, she is comfortably the best wicket keeper and an adept all round sportswoman who is supremely fit and lightning quick behind the stumps as well as being an explosive batsman with a wide range of shots.
She has played four Tests, 71 ODIs and 46 T20s for England and taken 75 catches and 56 stumpings.
Women playing men’s cricket is not unprecedented, England’s middle order batter Arran Brindle has for many years played in the Lincolnshire men’s Premier League – the standard of which will be fairly similar to that of county second XI.
There are others who regularly play men’s club cricket or learnt their game playing alongside boys in their age groups. Unlike football there is nothing in the regulations to stop girls playing alongside boys or women alongside men.
Women’s cricket is very different to the men’s game in many ways and the lack of power and pace will always be a fundamental difference.
It is, like field hockey, one of the few games that can be gender neutral. For example, England captain Charlotte Edwards captained the boy’s cricket team at school and was acknowledged as the best player in the school.
Women’s cricket is very different to the men’s game in many ways and the lack of power and pace will always be a fundamental difference that will continue to prevent the vast majority of women and girls from competing equally with men.
It will probably never be more than a handful who can get round the lack of power and hold their own in the men’s game and it is particularly difficult to envisage a female seam bowler who would be anywhere near fast or strong enough.
But there will be some women batters and, perhaps, a spinner or two who, just like some of the men in the county game, have enough skill in one department (be that wicket-keeping or the ability to play a wide range of skillful push and nurdle shots) to make up for what they lack in other areas.
This isn’t just a gimmick by Sussex to give them some publicity, Taylor has proven ability and her England coach Mark Lane clearly believes she will be able to hold her own and that it can only be a good thing to expose her to the faster pace of the men’s game.
Maybe she proves herself to be good enough to step up and play full first-class county cricket.
What’s the worst that can happen from this scenario? That Taylor is unsuccessful at county second XI level – that would merely put her alongside a whole heap of young men who haven’t been good enough for county cricket.
And what is more likely is that she holds her own, that the experience is good for her and her cricket and is good for women’s cricket in general.
And maybe, just maybe she is more than good enough and proves herself to be potentially good enough to step up and play full first-class county cricket.
That would be an incredible story if it happened – and it might well not - but all developments in sport require a trailblazer.
The England women’s squad are semi-professional but the domestic women’s game remains amateur and this isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future.
If a woman is good enough it is wholly inequitable to prevent her from having a career playing the game. There will only ever be a handful of women at most who would be good enough to play first-class cricket but if they can then why shouldn’t they?
This England team are phenomenally successful, they are the current 50 over World Cup holders and ranked number one in the world for T20s. This is largely down to the enormous investment that the ECB have put into women and girls cricket.
They’ve put in place effective structures across all tiers that are now generating and development a crop of very talented cricketers and with the continued investment they will only continue to get better and better.
It is inevitable that at some point, with these structures in place, we will produce a woman who is talented to enough to play men’s county cricket. It may well be that woman is Sarah Taylor.
It remains vital that the woman’s game has its own identity and that there are domestic and grass roots structures for girls that are separate from men’s and boy’s cricket but it can only be for the good of both the individual and Team England that the most talented play the best cricket they can – and that will, by its nature, be men’s cricket.
It seems to me that this is merely the next step in the development of the game and those being brave enough to take the step should be applauded.
The only real surprise is that this hasn’t happened sooner.
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