Shikha Pandey says don’t ‘tinker with fabric of women’s game’, but market it well

India pace-bowling allrounder Shikha Pandey has become the latest in a long line of cricketers to offer views on whether women’s cricket needs any tweaks – like smaller balls or shorter pitches – to help it further flourish and attract more fans. In a series of tweets, Pandey on Saturday said “most of the suggestions” to alter the women’s game were “superfluous”.

“Please, don’t compare women’s sport, women’s cricket in this case, with men’s sport. We need to see it as a different sport altogether… A sport that 86,174 spectators turned up to watch on March 8, 2020 and several million watched live on their television sets,” she tweeted, referring to the record crowd at the final of the 2020 T20 World Cup between Australia and India at the MCG in March.

A mainstay of the Indian attack that finished runners-up both at the 2017 ODI World Cup and the recent T20 World Cup, Pandey wrote, “Reducing the size of the ball is fine, but as Ian Smith suggested, it only works if the weight remains the same. This will allow for bowlers to grip the ball better – more revs for the spinners – and hits will also travel further (not be the case if it is light).”

As for reducing the length of the pitch from 22 yards, Pandey said: “An Olympic 100m female sprinter doesn’t run 80m to win First place medal and clock the same timing as her male counterpart,” she wrote. “So the whole ‘decreasing the length of the pitch’ for whatever reasons seems dubious. Also, it almost definitely takes the double-headers [with the men’s teams] out of question.”

Instead of “tinkering with rules or the very fabric of the game to attract an audience”, Pandey said, “Growth can be achieved by marketing the sport well.”

She also advocated more technology in the women’s game. “Why not have DRS, Snicko, Hotspot, all of the technical acumen and live broadcast for every game that we play anywhere in the world.”

Potential changes to the women’s game, such as using a shorter pitch and a smaller ball, were suggested by New Zealand captain Sophie Devine and India batter Jemimah Rodrigues in a recent webinar conducted by the ICC. Then, in a series of interviews by ESPNcricinfo last week, the likes of Smriti Mandhana, Rachael Haynes, Lea Tahuhu, Kate Cross and Nida Dar had also laid out their views on the debate.

“If it [the act of proposing tweaks] is about bringing it [women’s cricket] aesthetically closer to the men’s game, I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. The women’s game is a good product that’s continuing to evolve & make its own mark,” Haynes said.

ALSO READ: Should the women’s game use a shorter pitch and a smaller ball?

Tahuhu pointed out that “if you’re having to prepare two-sized pitches, then you lose out the opportunity to host double-headers with men, while Mandhana added: “Although I feel women’s cricket is exciting as it is… reducing the length might make it interesting from the viewer’s perspective.”

Cross and Dar emphasised that better infrastructural and monetary investment and more publicity on the part of the media is the ideal way to the take the women’s game forward. “Having the WBBL, the KSL, the Hundred or a women’s IPL – that’s the kind of change the women’s game needs,” said Cross, while Dar wondered, “How about publicising the matches rigorously on social media and mainstream media? … Give players more incentive to raise the standard of the game and things will get more entertaining.”

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