Cricket news 2022: Greg Barclay casts doubt over future of women’s Tests

ICC independent chair Greg Barclay has warned that women’s Test cricket might not be part of the sport’s landscape moving forward.

International Cricket Council independent chair Greg Barclay has warned that women’s Tests might not be part of the sport’s landscape moving forward because white-ball cricket is “driving the money”.

There have been 143 women’s Tests in its 88-year history, but the sport’s traditional format has become a rare commodity since T20 cricket burst onto the scene.

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Only England, Australia and India have played any women’s Tests since 2017, with all five matches during that time ending as a draw.

Most recently, January’s Ashes contest between Australia and England at Canberra’s Manuka Oval ended in thrilling scenes, with all four results possible heading into the final hour on day four.

England are scheduled to play South Africa in June, the Proteas’ first Test since 2014, but there are no other women’s Tests on the horizon.

Cricket Australia announced its schedule for the 2022/23 home summer last week, confirming that Meg Lanning’s side would not play any red-ball matches next season.

Despite growing calls from pundits and fans for more women’s Tests, Barclay has painted a grim picture for the future of the game’s longest format.

Speaking to BBC Radio’s Test Match Special on Friday, the former director of New Zealand Cricket confessed that he does not see a future for women’s Tests.

“If you look at strategically the way that cricket is going, there’s no doubt that white-ball cricket, short-form cricket, is the way of the future,” Barclay said.

“That’s the game that’s sought after by fans, that’s where the broadcasters are putting their resource, it’s what’s driving the money.

“To play Test cricket, you’ve got to have structures domestically that allow you to play long-form cricket and they don’t really exist in any of the countries at the moment, so I can’t really see women’s Test cricket or long-form cricket evolving at any particular speed at all.

“I don’t see it as part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent at all.”

Female athletes have limited opportunities to play multi-format domestic cricket, while Tests are considerably more expensive to host than one-day matches — but Barclay’s remarks heavily contradict the growing appetite for women’s red-ball cricket.

Australian spinner Jess Jonassen tweeted on Saturday: “Disappointing to see these comments, the hunger and drive is there from multiple countries regardless of some significant hurdles that need to be overcome by some. It should never be solely about money.”

The multi-format series, which the women’s Ashes has implemented since 2013, has proven huge successful for broadcasters and players.

“Certainly the uptake of countries wanting to be involved in Test match cricket is growing,” Australian all-rounder Ellyse Perry told reporters last week.

“South Africa are playing England over in England this summer, which is a great step forward. Hopefully, when (the Proteas) tour here, we’ve got that opportunity against them as well.

“I think the more momentum the multi-format series are building for Test cricket and providing it with great context, is important.

“Pakistan aren’t there yet this time around, but I think the more that we continue to discuss it, the more that we do it, and not just Australia but all the nations in the Future Tours Programme, the more likely it is that we play more Tests.”

Australian batter Beth Mooney added: “The game is still growing around the world, so whilst we do want to play more long-form cricket, we understand it’s not going to happen overnight.

“Teams have to be prepared and understand how to play that format of the game.

“Pakistan are a great team in their own right, so perhaps in two or three years they’ll be ready to play a Test match against us.”

Barclay was also asked about the status of women’s cricket in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the Asian nation last year.

The Islamic regime reportedly banned women from sport, with the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission Ahmadullah Wasiq claiming it was “unnecessary” for women to play cricket.

The historic Test between Australia and Afghanistan, which was scheduled to take place in Hobart last year, was postponed following the worrying reports.

“The people involved in Afghan cricket assure me they are doing everything they can to get the women’s game better established, and what has happened is hopefully something of a blip in that process,” Barclay said.

“Some other members have also had slow progress in developing a women’s game, so let’s give it time.”

During the Taliban’s oppressive regime from 1996 to 2001, women were completely banned from playing any sport or receiving education, while sports stadiums were regularly used for public executions.

Since the Taliban’s takeover last year, many of Afghanistan’s female athletes have reportedly gone into hiding and received death threats.

“Really disappointing comments from ICC Chair Greg Barclay on women’s cricket,” former Middlesex captain Isabelle Westbury tweeted on Saturday.

“Sounds like he’s 10 years behind the game he’s supposedly trying to run.

“As for Afghanistan … to describe the Taliban takeover as ‘a bit of a blip’ re women’s cricket … whoa.

“Either just incredibly stupid or wilfully ignorant.”

Australian vice-captain Racheal Haynes tweeted on Sunday: “The most troubling part of this interview were the comments on Afghan cricket. To say the Taliban’s takeover is ‘a blip in the process’ of establishing womens cricket in Afghanistan is absurd & offensive. Give it time is an unacceptable position when it comes to human rights.”

Meanwhile, Barclay foreshadowed a decline in the number of men’s Tests due to domestic T20 leagues, such as the Indian Premier League and Big Bash League, dominating the cricket calendar.

“The single biggest issue that we’ve got in front of us now is we’re creating the cycle for the next eight years (and) just fitting everything that we’ve got into that calendar,” he warned.

“And I think there’ll be some unfortunate consequences from a playing experience point of view and in a revenue generation perspective for some of these countries who just won’t get the amount of cricket that they will hope to have.

“We’re fortunate in some respects that we’ve got other forms of the game that can help us sustain, particularly financially, Test cricket because, with the exception maybe of one or two series, it is effectively loss making for member boards.

“It may well be that there’s less Test cricket, and some countries will just have to make room and play less Test cricket.

“Some of the smaller full members will have to accept that from a resourcing point of view that they’re just not going to be able to play the amount of Test cricket that they wanted to.”

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