09 October 2012 - 06:08pm IST
by Shashank Kishore in Colombo
Women's cricket couldn't have asked for better advertisement than the final of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2012 between England and Australia. The match had all the right elements – quality cricket, sterling performances, a decent crowd and, of course, drama – that make for compelling viewing. Most importantly, it proved that if the women's game is given a platform to establish its credentials, it could generate interest and curiosity amongst viewers.
Unlike the men's event, which featured 12 teams, the women's game saw eight sides battle it out for the crown. There was high-quality cricket on display from the start. England, Australia and New Zealand were the standout performers, while West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all had moments to savour despite not being similarly consistent.
An idea that has widely gained currency is that of hosting a women’s bilateral T20 International to precede a men's bilateral Twenty20 International between the same two countries, thus getting attention from broadcasters. The International Cricket Council (ICC)'s initiative of playing the semi-finals and final of the women's event alongside the men's is seen as another step in that direction.
The next women's event in the ICC calendar is the ICC Women’s World Cup to be staged in India in 2013. In addition to this, from April 2013, the countries ranked in the top ten will be required to play at least three ODIs and three Twenty20Is, excluding ICC events, in any 12-month period. This minimum requirement was recently approved by the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee, which has sent out a strong message from the top about the importance of bilateral women’s cricket.
Keeping participation and exposure of teams in mind, the Asian Cricket Council has also scheduled the Women's Twenty20 Asia Cup, to be held in Guangzhou in China from 24-31 October. The venue also hosted the 2010 Asian Games final, where Pakistan beat Bangladesh to take the gold medal.
Apart from the established subcontinent sides – Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – China, Thailand, Hong Kong and Nepal will be the four teams competing in the eight-nation event. After missing out on qualification for the ICC World Twenty20 2012, Bangladesh would be looking to climb up the ladder and gain much-needed exposure, keeping in mind the 2014 ICC Women's World Twenty20 on home soil, which will feature eight teams.
While India and South Africa secured the ICC World Twenty20 2014 berths with wins in the play-off matches at the end of the tournament, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will have to go through a qualifying round and five other teams for the two remaining slots. Bangladesh is assured of a place as the host of the tournament.
Since coming under the purview of the ICC in 2005, women's cricket has taken small, but significant, steps towards establishing itself. The giant leap is yet to come, but is expected sooner rather than later.