Last week, the Australian women’s cricket team clinched their first international series of the summer, beating India 11-5 in the inaugural multi-format series.
In a fiercely contested series, there were plenty of talking points, particularly relating to the women’s day-night Test.
Series was a lot closer than expected
As the number one women’s team in the world, unbeaten in their last nine bilateral series, the Australian team were the favourites heading into the series.
That prediction played out as expected, but former Australia captain Karen Rolton says those who paid close attention will know it was not an easy task.
“Overall, I thought it was a pretty exciting series,” Rolton said.
“If India had won that, as well as the third where they broke Australia’s 26-match winning streak, they would have been 2-1 up before the Test started and with all the momentum.
“Even in the T20s, it was unfortunate that the first match was washed out because India were looking good to set a target of about 180, which would have been difficult to chase.
“The thing that let them down the most was their consistency, they had patches in each of the games where they made errors and it cost them.”
Women’s IPL would make a big difference
Rolton played 15 T20 Internationals before she retired from the Australian team in 2009, and was still opening the batting for South Australia in her final T20 state match in 2011.
She would have loved to have played in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), which was not introduced until six years after she had moved on.
The level of exposure and interest in women’s cricket has grown tremendously since then, purely because Cricket Australia jumped the gun and invested before women’s sport was seen as a viable commercial product.
Beyond that, Rolton said, the experience Australian players get from consistently playing difficult matches in the high-stake, high-pressure environment has improved their ability to close out games and even snatch them from their opponents in a dramatic fashion.
“When India are at their best, they’re hard to beat and, if they can build consistency at a domestic level, that’ll definitely help,” she said.
“An [Indian Premier League] really is needed and when you hear people talk about the reason there has been a delay in India setting that up because of their concerns over a lack of depth, it takes me back to when the WBBL first started.
“Even in the new Hundred tournament in the UK, some of the best players weren’t even in the England team, so you’ve got to give people an opportunity to step up … add in internationals and there’ll be enough.”
Disappointing negativity around Test
As the centrepiece of the multi-format series, there was always going to be a lot of attention placed on the lone Test match.
Women rarely get to play the longest format of the game and the opportunities to do so have continued to decline over the past decade, with more of an importance placed on ODI and T20I cricket.
During her 14-year international career, spanning from 1995 to 2009, Rolton played 14 Tests, including four tours where the Australians played two or three Tests in a single series.
In the 11 years since then, the team have played just seven Tests, meaning they have only been exposed to the tactics, on average, once every 18 months.
Those who are deeply invested in the women’s game, were therefore pretty frustrated with the negativity that circulated from male pundits and casual fans, suggesting the women needed to be more entertaining if they wanted more opportunities to play Test cricket.
This was especially noticeable given almost a full-day’s play was lost to rain in a four-day Test match.
“I think that argument should be flipped because the more exposure they get, the more tapped-in they’ll be on the tactics, and everyone will be used to batting for a longer period of time and will know when it’s time to up the score rate.
“Sometimes there are lacklustre men’s Tests or hard-fought draws, where it feels like it’s dragging out, but they play so many of them that you don’t really hear the same conversation.
“When I was at club level, we were playing two-day cricket and although it wasn’t two days in a row, you’d play the same team over two weekends. That really helped us reassess the game and gave us an idea on how to build plans at each stage.
“It would be good to see a women’s equivalent of the Sheffield Shield introduced or even a return to two-day cricket in the domestic pathways.”
Does the women’s Test format, points system need to change?
More progressive conversations focussed around whether women’s Tests needed to be pushed to five days to help enforce a result, or if the Test should be worth more in the multi-format points system to make a Test win really damaging.
However, Rolton thinks a commitment between both captains could be the way to go.
“Maybe it comes down to the two captains getting together beforehand so that there is an agreement from both teams to play aggressive cricket,” she said.
Australia will next play England in the Women’s Ashes in January, where the order of the formats will be rearranged to showcase the Test match first.