Saturday, 13 June 2015

Column 18, 2015 – Girls allowed

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 121, Friday June 12, 2015.
[Full text below]

What does it mean to throw like a girl, run like a girl, play like a girl? These are the questions in the Always #likeagirl campaign, a major winner in last month’s D&AD awards, advertising’s equivalent of the Oscars.

For the world’s biggest advertiser (Always is owned by Proctor & Gamble, whose annual ad-budget is around $5 billion) this is provocative, unusual stuff.

With not a product demo in sight, the campaign sets out to reclaim the phrase ‘like a girl’, and flip its meaning from insult to empowerment.

It stole the show at this year’s Superbowl, dominating the conversation in both mainstream and social media. If you’re not in either advertising or America, you probably missed it. It’s worth Googling and pretty inspiring, even – perhaps especially – for those of us not generally in the market for sanitary towels.

My youngest daughter plays cricket after school on Mondays, and my niece plays in the U9 section of a big club. My oldest tells me cricket isn’t an option for her at school, just as netball isn’t an option for boys. This means I don’t know any females over the age of eight who play cricket.

So it was most heartening that the league side we played Saturday included three young women. They were not making up the numbers. One batted at four, one opened the bowling, the other was first change. All three had played district or county.

In sports like rugby where physical power is so central, girls playing in men’s teams is neither sensible nor common, but in cricket there is no reason why not.

The girls we played Saturday all said they enjoyed the challenge of playing men’s league.

Women’s cricket has come a long way in a short time. Believe it or not it was only 1999 when the MCC admitted its first women members. Former captain and women’s membership campaigner Rachael Heyhoe Flint was among those inaugurated in The Long Room at Lord’s, ending 212 men-only years. (The only woman previously admitted during play was Queen Elizabeth II.)

The women’s national side and the funding and support it received is probably the only unqualified success story of the Sky TV deal swelling English cricket’s coffers this last decade. Last year they entered the professional era with 18 centrally contracted players.

Two years ago there was quite a stir caused by the prospect of Sarah Taylor playing first class cricket for Sussex men’s team. It never happened, despite many high profile observers declaring her good enough.

It will happen. Like the 450 Test run-chase and the 10-ball limited overs 50, it’s inevitable. Another of those firsts just sitting out there waiting to be ticked off someone’s list. That someone may even now be out there learning their game in men’s club cricket.

And as for the ‘like a girl’ comparisons, on Saturday’s evidence, running and throwing like a girl seems like a pretty good idea to me.

- ends 491 words -

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