This Monday, May 6th marks the inaugural "Women's County Cricket Day", a new initiative designed to promote women's county cricket around the May Bank Holiday. It involves over thirty women's county cricket sides playing in what will no doubt be gripping and entertaining matches around the country.
Richard Clark, whose daughter is in the Worcestershire age-group programme, came up with the idea after cricket fans complained last season that they felt bereft of cricket on a Bank Holiday weekend.
"Plenty of women's cricket was happening, people just didn't know about it. It is true that there was no men's cricket, but plenty of women's cricket was happening - people just didn't know about it. So we decided that this year things would be different - we'd ensure they did know about it, by creating a campaign around the Bank Holiday weekend”.
He elaborated by saying that they had taken some inspiration from football’s non-League Day when in the absence of League and Premier League football, fans were encouraged to support their local non-league clubs as an alternative for one day.
'We felt this was a way to increase awareness. England's women are well supported and receive plenty of media coverage. The Kia Super League has also grown in popularity and coverage in the last three years, but the county game goes very much under the radar. We felt this was a way to increase awareness”.
We asked Richard what visitors and newcomers to the game should expect from their first experience of Women’s Cricket day, "The cricket will speak for itself. Most matches will be at a small town or village grounds, which hopefully means a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Don't expect music, fireworks or dancing! But that just allows the cricket to speak for itself. Admission will be free."
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Syd Egan, another one of the creative minds behind the initiative recommends that visitors 'bring a deck chair, a picnic and finally their enthusiasm to support their local team. Importantly, admission will be free, as well as parking.' All of the matches themselves will be 50 overs per side, starting at 11 am.
Notably, the vast majority of the players involved in the bank holiday matches are genuine amateurs who play cricket for the real love of the game. The only players who can earn salaries from the matches are the England players who are centrally contracted. Therefore, many players will effectively be paying to play, rather than the other way round. Spectators, however, will see cricketers who take themselves and their game very seriously, and take huge pride in playing for their county.
The commitment of the players is also unquestionable. For instance, Lincolnshire is playing at Cumbria on Sunday and then Northumberland on Monday - just one of several counties needing an overnight stay that weekend. It's something that deserves great recognition and respect.
Richard himself will be at North Maidenhead Cricket Club where Berkshire host Worcestershire in Division 2. Despite not being in the top flight, Berkshire includes England captain Heather Knight in their ranks and have also recently signed World Cup hero Anya Shrubsole from Somerset. Seeing how Worcestershire cope, when faced with two mighty cricketing prowesses, is sure to make for a riveting game.
'We're looking forward to putting on an entertaining match for all to see.'
Warwickshire captain, Marie Kelly who will be playing away to Kent on Monday described Women's County Cricket Day as 'a fantastic initiative designed to showcase women's county cricket.' She's also 'looking forward to having more spectators than ever and putting on an entertaining match for all to see.'
Such an event is bound to showcase impressive talent amongst youth players, who have a fantastic opportunity to impress their spectators. The event can help pave the way for young stars who hope to follow in the successes of current England players in years to come.
Worcestershire's new young talent Sarah Glenn hopes the day will ' inspire more people to take up the sport, especially young girls who may have considered trying cricket but will feel more encouraged to do so after watching other women play.'
Let's hope for a sunny bank holiday and bumper crowds at the first Women’s County Cricket Day, for what will surely become a firm fixture in the nation’s sporting calendar.
To find your local county cricket day match, visit crickether.com for a full list of fixtures and details. You can follow the campaign on Twitter @WomensCricDay and show your support using #YourCounty.