Women’s cricket can flourish with better marketing and without “dubious” changes such as smaller pitches and lighter balls, according to India pace bowler Shikha Pandey.
Pandey’s comments were in response to suggestions made by New Zealand captain Sophie Devine earlier this month that reduced-size balls could encourage more attacking play among female cricketers.
Pandey’s national teammate, Jemimah Rodrigues, has also been vocal about innovating the women’s game with shorter pitches, which she argued could take female cricket “to the next level” and help grow the sport’s fanbase. Both players made their suggestions in a cricket webinar series hosted by Mel Jones, the former Australian cricketer.
But in a deluge of impassioned posts on social media, Pandey warned that “tinkering with rules” was not the way forward when it comes to increasing the profile of the women’s game.
“An Olympic 100m female sprinter doesn't run 80m to win and clock the same timing as her male counterpart,” Pandey wrote. “So the whole 'decreasing the length of the pitch' for whatever reasons seems dubious.
“Reducing the size of the ball is fine, but [...] 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).”
I have been reading/ hearing a lot about the changes being suggested to help grow women's cricket/ make it a more attractive product. I personally feel most of the suggestions to be superfluous.
— Shikha Pandey (@shikhashauny) June 27, 2020
She added: “Please don't bring the boundaries in. We have surprised you with our power-hitting in recent times, so remember, this is only the beginning; we will get better. Please have patience. We are skilled players, who are evolving.
“Growth can also be achieved by marketing the sport well. We don't have to tinker with rules or the very fabric of the game to attract an audience.”
Pandey's posts garnered support from England cricketers Dani Wyatt and Kate Cross, with the latter advocating greater investment in the women’s game rather than changes.
Warning against making comparisons between men’s and women’s sport, Pandey also cited the success of the T20 World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 8, which attracted 86,174 - just 4,641 short of the world record for a women’s sporting event.
The spectacle, which coincided with International Women’s Day, was the result of a concerted marketing campaign spearheaded by tournament organisers called ‘Fill the MCG’ and included pre-match entertainment from pop star Katy Perry.
The debate to tailor women’s sport according to female physiology has long caused controversy. Last year Emma Hayes, the Chelsea women’s manager, suggested that goals are “just a little too big” for female footballers, while Simon Middleton, the England women’s rugby head coach, has also previously said reducing the size of the ball in women’s rugby could “create a better spectacle.”