Australia selector Shawn Flegler – ‘Top sides can invest in women’s Tests but important to keep the rest in mind’
“What we’ve seen during Covid is the drop off in the amount of international cricket in the women’s game”
Any push to increase the amount of Test cricket in the women’s game would need to be balanced against the wider development of the sport, according to Australia selector and female high-performance manager Shawn Flegler.
Only Australia Women and England Women have played Test cricket in the last six years (three as part of the Ashes), with South Africa and India the other nations to have been part of the longest format since the Netherlands played in 2007.
India will return to the Test arena when they face England in Bristol later this year and there will be another Ashes match in early 2022 as part of the multi-format series. But currently, it seems unlikely there will be any expansion as cricket tries to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic which has been much more damaging to the women’s game.
“No doubt, the players want to play Test cricket and, that’s not in question at all, it’s a bigger picture that we need to keep in mind a few different factors,” Flegler said on the day the latest batch of CA contracts were confirmed.
“The global strategy has been based on T20 cricket and that’s a really important part to keep in mind. Whilst the top sides have probably got the depth and the dollars to invest in playing more Test cricket, it’s really important we do keep in mind the rest of the world.
“Thailand played in the T20 World Cup (last February), (but) can’t see them playing Test cricket in the very near future. What we’ve seen during Covid is the drop off in the amount of international cricket that has been played in the women’s game. We want to be really conscious of that and ensure we are supporting the growth of the women’s game all around the world and not just the top two or three who can afford to be playing more Test cricket.”
The challenges facing the women’s game doesn’t include just the ability to put on more Test matches, but also the lack of multi-day cricket at domestic or development level to help preparation.
“From a development point of view, I’m sure it could help, but you also need to factor in what’s the underlying programs for that, do we have the resources and facilities and support to do that,” Flegler said. “It is really hard to get up to play one-off Tests for players when you don’t play multi-day cricket.
“Women’s cricket is in this really great stage where we’ve seen great growth but there are decisions that need to be made about whether we invest more in multi-day cricket or we hold firm and make sure we are investing across the global game, ensuring we have a really strong competition that is not just among the first few teams.”
While Australia are one of the few teams that will play all formats over the next year, their major focus is the 50-over game with sights set on the World Cup in New Zealand, although there is also half an eye on the 2022 Commonwealth Games where women’s T20 will feature in Birmingham.
“It is really hard to get up to play one-off Tests for players when you don’t play multi-day cricket.”
Australia selector and female high-performance manager Shawn Flegler
Flegler said it could be that the proposed Australia-Australia A series being earmarked for this August ahead of the 2021-22 season, which is also set to include a visit by India in September before the WBBL, could be pushed back to after the World Cup to be used as more focused preparation for the Games.
“It all depends on the final international schedule and how that gets locked in,” he said. “We need to balance those series and make sure players are getting into their state programs as well leading into the international summer.
“If we can, we’ll try and get that before the international season kicks off again. If we can’t do it, then we’ll look to do it post season and use it as part of our preparation for the Commonwealth Games as well. I think it’s a really good concept and it’s a great opportunity to do it now while we have that depth. It’ll be a great few games to play.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo