Poise, power as women make mark in the cricket world
Women’s cricket around the world is on the rise, as showcased by the first international Women’s World Twenty20 last month.Paris -- The sleepy octogenarians of Lord's might struggle to grasp it but there's more to women's cricket than scantily-clad dancers at the IPL or admirable sponge cakes in English village pavilions.
Just ask Pakistan all-rounder Sajjida Shah, who was playing international cricket when she was only 12, or a teammate of hers who went on hunger strike to protest against her parents' objection to her playing the game.
Or they could wonder why women held a World Cup tournament two years before the men and why the first international Twenty20 match was played between two women's teams.
Appropriately, the inaugural Women's World Twenty20 was played last month alongside the men's tournament with the final at Lord's on the same day as their male counterparts.
"Women's cricket is definitely on the rise. Since the ICC took over the women's game in 2005, the number of countries playing women's cricket has quadrupled," said International Cricket Council's (ICC) manager for cricket operations, David Richardson.
"The T20 semi-finals and final of both events are scheduled at the same venue and same day. The ICC centenary celebrations are being held in 2009 and women's cricket forms an important part of the celebrations."
England started as favourites having captured the World Cup in Australia earlier this year, a victory made even sweeter when long-serving batsman Claire Taylor was named one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year.
The 33-year-old became the first woman to be honoured with the award in its 120-year history.
There are plenty of characters in the women's game, not least Shah who is still a mainstay of the Pakistan team and is yet to celebrate her 21st birthday.
After winning her first cap when she was just 12, Shah shone at the 2003 International Women's Cricket Council Trophy in Amsterdam where she took 7 for 4 as Japan were bowled out for 28 to give Pakistan a 153-run victory.
Shah is now a senior citizen in a team which includes Bismah Maroof, who is just 15.
"I like to be the youngest as everyone takes care of me," said Maroof.
It's a long way from the first recorded women's match which, it is claimed, took place at Guildford, southern England, in July, 1745 between the villages of Bramley and Hambledon.
"Eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambledon, all dressed in white," reported the Reading Mercury newspaper.
"The Bramley maids had blue ribbons and the Hambledon maids red ribbons on their heads. The Bramley girls got 119 notches and the Hambledon girls 127. The girls bowled, batted, ran and catches as well as most men could do in that game...."
The Women's World Twenty20 featured eight nations divided into two pools.
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies were in Group A with England, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were in Group B. On this inaugural year, England's women cruised to victory over New Zealand.