Monday, 11 December 2023, 13:01
The European Cricket Network has announced another big step forward for women’s cricket as Malaga prepares to host the first ever Women’s European Cricket Championship (ECC-W) at the Cártama Oval.
The landmark event is scheduled to take place from 17 to 22 December, offering six days of thrilling cricket with four matches each day. The inaugural tournament will feature five nations each bidding to become European Cricket champions for the first time: hosts Spain, Netherlands, Austria, Italy and recent-addition England XI, after France pulled out.
The tournament will follow the same format as the men’s competition, adopting the fast-paced T10 form for the first time in a women’s championship.
The ECN has been hosting a variety of women’s T20Is for the past two years, and with the success of the men’s version of the competition, introducing a women’s tournament “made complete sense” for ECN founder Daniel Weston. Speaking to SUR, he explained how the women’s game “has been left behind for too long”.
“It should be for everyone. We are all athletes. We are trying to accelerate the women’s game as fast as possible,” he went on to say. There is a strong belief that this new ECC-W can be more than just a tournament, and represent a new era not only for women’s cricket but for cricket as a whole as it enters the European market.
“There is a lot of untapped energy in supporting women’s cricket that we want to unleash,” said the founder, who is also a player of the game himself.
Daniel Weston, ECN founder
The women’s side of the sport has become “trendy” according to CEO Roger Feiner, who says now is the time to expand the women’s game. Its audience is constantly growing, with rising popularity in competitions such as the women’s IPL in India and the Women’s Hundred in the UK. And this is not just happening in the traditional cricketing nations; European countries such as Italy and Austria as well as Spain have introduced women’s cricket programmes. The ECN itself has already organised events in Austria and Germany, as well as locally in Gibraltar, demonstrating a potential for the sport to grow in Europe.
The ECC-W will use the T10 format (ten-over innings), similar to the men’s tournament. This nontraditional format makes the game a lot more accessible not only for spectators, but also for the players.
“Everyone in Europe knows the word ‘cricket’, but they probably think that you wear whites and it goes on for five days and maybe there’s no winner... but what we’re trying to do is produce something which goes into 90 minutes, two halves of 45 minutes, just the same as football,” explained Daniel on the T10 format.
By making the games shorter than traditional games of cricket, it eliminates the negative preconception that cricket matches are always long and boring. The faster-paced game is also helped by using a 45-metre boundary to encourage more fours and sixes, providing yet more entertainment for spectators.
This format also allows the game to be played by more amateur players, as playing a 10-over innings is much simpler than navigating a 20 or even 50-over innings, where more complex techniques and tactics are used, a disadvantage for teams with fewer resources and less experience. Instead, the tournament aims to “give opportunities to as many cricketers as possible”.
Moreover, as these matches only last the length of a game of football, players and spectators do not have to sacrifice a whole day to a cricket match. For Daniel this is key in attracting families and children to the tournament, contributing to a community atmosphere at Cártama where all are welcome.
Speaking on the future and expectations of the ECC-W, Daniel said, “The plan is to start with a six-day five-team event, then we want to expand it to a two-week ten-team event next year.” Eventually, the goal is to make this a continent-wide competition with as many nations participating as possible.
The competition will have a wide broadcasting audience, being shown by 10 different broadcasters, including on the European Cricket Network. Millions are due to tune in, especially in India where cricket is the most popular sport.
The opening match will be contested between hosts Spain and Austria, beginning at 9.45am. The England XI Women will be in the third match on the opening day, taking on Austria at 1.45pm.
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