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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April 2005, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Women's cricket on the up
By Gabrielle Lewis

Clubs and coaches are pinning their hopes on the success of Clare Connor's England team at the Women's World Cup in South Africa.

Barbara Daniels
If we could win the World Cup it would be a huge boost to the game
Barbara Daniels

The grass roots of the game needs a victory at the very highest level, not because they are struggling for players, but in order to continue the remarkable growth that women's cricket has enjoyed over the last seven years.

The achievements of the England men's team over the last year or so have certainly helped to bolster numbers among juniors.

But with so many sports now open to girls, and rugby and football about to benefit from a Lions tour and a World Cup respectively, cricket wants to prove itself more attractive than the rest.

Players have more avenues available to them to pursue the sport than ever, with 33% more clubs now boasting women's sections than five years ago.

Key to the future of the game, however, is the extent to which cricket is catching the attention at school age.

In 2000-01, 640,000 girls had played some form of cricket at school - that has risen to two million over the last year.

"More girls are now playing non-traditional girls sports, and we have benefitted from that sociological shift," said England Development Squad coach Barbara Daniels.

"There has been much more involvement from clubs going into schools and games like Kwik cricket, which is very lively, is something both boys and girls enjoy at primary school.

Girls are being introduced to cricket at primary school
Girls are being introduced to cricket at primary school

"So we now have a generation of girls going into secondary school having played a bit of cricket. The difficult is sustaining that interest within the tight curriculum and that's what the clubs have taken on."

Warwickshire are a prime example of this.

Five years ago the county did not have any senior clubs, then eight appeared to play in a Warwickshire Women's Twenty20 league.

Four of the clubs, Walmley, Handsworth, Birmingham and Blossomfield, also play in the Women's Midlands League that was formed in 2002 and now offers a high level of competitive cricket for 12 teams in the region.

The story is repeated around the country and is testament to the work of the clubs, the county and the four regional development officers appointed when the Women's Cricket Association merged with the England and Wales Cricket Board in 1998.

Since then, women's cricket has become more structured, with channels in place to identify and nurture talented players to avoid them slipping into teenage obscurity.

"We're just honing our talent identification structure and it's not exactly right, but at least now we are able to identify a talented 12 or 13-year-old to ensure they stay in cricket and develop," Daniels added.

Lydia Greenway
England's Lydia Greenway offers a few batting tips

"Ten years ago we struggled to find any of the counties running a junior section, but now more and more can fill teams at Under-11, 13, 15, 17 and 19."

Over the last three years, just over half the counties have started girls-only Kwik cricket competitions in schools and 63% are competing in the Lady Taverners Club Cricket Competition.

By 2009, the plan is to increase these figures to 90%.

With 110 clubs planning new girls and women's sections, that target is more than achievable, but a little help from the national team would not go amiss.

Daniels was a member of the England side which last won the World Cup in 1993, scoring 21 not out in the final against New Zealand at Lord's.

The timing would be perfect, said Daniels, if England were to lift the trophy again.

"If we could win the World Cup it would be a huge boost to the game because of the attention it would attract.

"We have to spread the word."

  • For help in finding a club, contact the ECB Development Officers in your region: Pauline Peel (North) 0191 388 3550, Helen Pugh (Midlands) 0115 982 3000, Jackie Summers (South West) 01392 422487, Andrew Wheeler (South East) 01480 496168.

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