Saturday, January 14, 2012

All Rounders

Suzie Bates, an all-rounder, was last month appointed New Zealand women's captain. She also represented New Zealand at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, at basketball, which struck me as interesting. As she said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald recently:

I've been balancing the two [sports] for the last eight years and I've been very fortunate to be able to have done both. Obviously captaining New Zealand in cricket is something that is not easy to turn down and it does mean that basketball's in the backseat but I still love both games and, at the moment, the cricket's at the forefront and I'm still committed to that. But it doesn't mean basketball won't still get a chance later down the track.


As women's cricket becomes increasingly professionalised, and therefore more time-consuming, it becomes harder for women like Bates to develop their talent in multiple sports. This is a choice which men have been having to make themselves for many years - it's reasonably well-known, for example, that Phil Neville played cricket with Andrew Flintoff in his younger days, before making the choice to turn professional at football.

I've found it interesting to note that girls and women who have been talented at cricket have often also been interested in other sports. The Women's Cricket Association itself was founded in 1926 by a group of female hockey players who apparently wanted a team game to play in the summer (as an alternative to tennis). And Women's Cricket magazine is littered with references to alternative leisure interests, with players often listing sports such as table tennis, lacrosse, golf, tennis and of course hockey, under their "Interests". In 1935, for example, Colwall CC reported that: “We have six hockey goalkeepers in our club, can anyone else beat that?"

It's probably not only recently that players like Bates have had to make the difficult choice between sports. Pollard herself never played cricket for England, though she was a spectacular hockey player and represented her country at that level. Perhaps too much time devoted to one sport was a problem even back then.

It does seem that this cross-over of interest created a female sporting community in which players were interested in and celebrated not merely their own achievements, but those of their fellow sportswomen. A 1948 editorial of Women's Cricket suggested that
cricket players will want to congratulate the England Womens' Hockey XI on their great achievement of 1947-8 [in which the team had beaten Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Denmark and Holland].

As women's cricket, and other women's sports, become more professionalised, inevitably much of this sense of a unified cross-sporting community is lost. Just one of the trade-offs for the access to resources and finance that professionalisation provides.