Is it possible England women’s cricketers have the best of both worlds?

Having chatted to all-rounder Lydia Greenway prior to England flying out to India to try to defend their World Cup title won in Australia in 2009, here’s my case for men’s cricket actually having paved the way for a rapid evolution of the women’s game

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NOW DON’T get me wrong, the cricket ladies still turn right when boarding a plane while the men turn left but the England women’s cricket team is the best funded in the world with the 2013 season the first in which the women are financially supported by the governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

“We now get tour fees and match appearance fees,” explains 27-year-old Lydia Greenway. “But we still need another income on the side. A few of us are coaching ambassadors for a Chance to Shine – so we go to schools to promote cricket and coaching sessions for girls. The girls who don’t do that are at University or, like Arran Brindle, a mum but she works as a teacher as well.”

A life less ordinary
Granted, it sounds like dream world to play cricket full-time. But a recent spate of admissions by cricketing legends such as Andrew Flintoff and Marcus Trescothick reveal a possible link between cricketers’ long periods on tour away from home and with it their friends and family support network, and an exacerbation of depressive tendencies. It may, therefore, be healthier to combine a life in the real world and to have a plan in place for the life after.

“We’ve got the best support we can have,” says Lydia, who’s lucky enough to have her family travel with her to many tournaments. “The ECB provide personal development people who offer us support with everything except cricket – so our personal lives, jobs, things like that – so that’s been put in place to stop things like that. I’m a qualified gym instructor and I’m going on to do my personal training. I’m also topping up my degree through the Open University in sports, fitness and coaching. Hopefully I’m taking care of that now before I get there.”

Testing times
Women also only play one five-day Test series, against Australia in the Ashes, so spend less time on the road than the men. “The longest we’re away is a month, which isn’t a huge amount of time compared to the guys,” agrees Lydia. “We would like to play more Test matches but, at the same time, to raise our profile I think we need to play the shorter formats of the game.” So the 50-over One Day Internationals and Twenty20 formats, played in a day, look the way forward for the women’s game at this time.

With the advent of double headers, in which women play prior to the men on the same day, a new audience is garnered as the stadium fills up. “When we were at the World Cup final in Sri Lanka, towards the end of our game we practically played in front of a full house and that was amazing. Hopefully things like double headers can get more spectators interested in cricket and other women’s sports as well.”

Careful what you wish for
Alongside a higher profile comes added pressure of which the women can learn much from the England men’s team. A texting faux pas even ended with influential batsman Kevin Pietersen exiled from the side after sending provocative texts to the opposition.

Many of the England women’s team tweet but coverage of any errant comments would be minimal at this stage, but learning the pitfalls while under the radar surely results in a less pressurised environment. Lydia keeps this potential slip-up off the radar by steering well clear. “Some of the girls did make up a fake Twitter profile for me. It was literally for a day and I was like, yeah, that’s enough.”

Banter
The art of sledging, indicative of a testosterone fuelled men’s game, occasionally spills over leading to explosive bouts of temper on the field. Australian legend Shane Warne even had a bat hurled at him during a Twenty20 match in Australia earlier this month.
“You can use sledging to try and get a bit of an edge,” says Greenway. “But there’s no bitchiness, nothing personal – it’s just about the cricket.”
“You don’t throw bats at each other,” I ask.
“No, definitely don’t throw bats at each other,” laughs Lydia. “It was a rubbish throw anyway.”

Training day
After playing cricket against the boys at her dad’s cricket club as a youngster Lydia was forced to set up her own ladies team when the boys got too big. These days the Kent-born player uses the strength of male cricketers to her advantage, a training tool of which the boys and men can only dream. “If a girl comes up to me and says, what do you recommend I do to improve my cricket, I always say to play boys cricket because if they’ve got the confidence and they’re good enough then that helps your game huge amounts. As a team, we practice against college first elevens, they can hit the ball harder, so when we play women’s cricket we’re more in our comfort zone.”

On balance, bearing in mind I’m coming from a place where the financial high-point of my gymnastics career was a £10 Debenhams voucher, I’d say the England women have it pretty good. Now, if we can just get to the point where the ladies turn left on to an aeroplane, I think they’ve got it sorted.

Women’s cricket is part of the year round schedule of live women’s sport on Sky Sports

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Lydia introduces you to the characters on the England women’s cricket team

Social media queen
I’d probably say Danielle Wyatt as she just loves knowing what’s going on, which is nice as she’s always the first to know what’s going on in the news so she’s probably the Twitter queen.

Most focused
I’d have to say our captain, Charlotte Edwards. She has got a really nice balance of when she needs to focus on what she’s doing but away from cricket she still has downtime.

The jokers
There’s a few of us who like to play pranks on each other. I am including myself in that. Only little things. For example, Laura Marsh, always brings along this little teddy with her and it’s called Jimmy – I’m not sure if it’s after Jimmy Anderson or not, it could well be – but a few of us have hijacked him before and hidden her in different places and has been found on a sun lounger by the pool before.

Lydia-Greenway-Twitter

Further info
ECB women’s cricket – England women’s official site
ESPN Cricinfo – statistics

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