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One giant leap for women's cricket

New Zealand players celebrate an Australian wicket during their series in the summer. Photosport
New Zealand players celebrate an Australian wicket during their series in the summer. Photosport

Turn left rather than right.

That move marks one small step for the White Ferns, but one giant leap for cricket-kind when the side flies to the World Cup in England next month.

New Zealand coach Haidee Tiffen named her 15-strong squad yesterday in pursuit of the country's second World Cup to match the home victory in 2000.

However, the announcement was overshadowed by the ongoing Velvet Revolution in the women's game.

They will travel business class to the tournament (or anywhere) for the first time courtesy of the International Cricket Council; a right their male counterparts have accepted as the status quo for years. Compare that to last year's World T20 in India. The men travelled up front but the women were sent to economy.

In addition, every women's World Cup match will be broadcast either on television or live-streamed for the first time, including the use of the Decision Review System.

In another transition towards parity, the World Cup prize money has been increased from $290,000 to $2.9 million. By comparison, the winner of the men's Champions Trophy pockets $3.2 million with tournament prize money totaling $6.5 million.

"The change will not happen overnight, but the women's game is crucial to the global growth of cricket," ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said recently.

"There is undoubtedly an audience for it - there were almost 18 million views of highlights of the women's World Cup qualifier earlier this year - and we need to grow that.

"We think the women's World Cup this summer will be a turning point in the history of the game. There is growing interest globally in women's sports and we want cricket to be front and centre of this."

Debbie Hockley, the former New Zealand captain and now president of the governing body, told the Radio Sport Breakfast the efforts to offer business-class flights would be appreciated.

"On a long-haul flight anything that helps you feel fresher at the other end has a benefit. Hopefully we [the cricketing world] will talk about this for 30s. No one talks about the guys flying business class.

"It is significant... another way of showing that the ICC are trying to get parity... but the main focus is how they [the White Ferns] perform as cricketers."

Hockley, a World Cup winner alongside Tiffen in 2000, acknowledged it was part of a long fight to get due recognition.

"We've always been niggling in the background. Probably some of that agitating and encouragement contributed to New Zealand Cricket's 'women in cricket' strategy [released in November].

"NZC got to the point of putting that out, which is fantastic, and working hard on the women's game."

Add 10 NZC women's contracts worth $10,000 - plus match fees - alongside many White Ferns playing in the Australian and English T20 leagues, and a significant income stream takes shape.

Sophie Devine was selected in her third World Cup squad yesterday after recovering from a broken thumb. She told Radio Sport there had never been a better time to be a women's cricketer.

"In the last couple of years the women's game has completely taken off here, in Australia, and in England. With the support of the ICC it becomes a career path for young females in this country.

"That's something I say when I talk at schools. Doing something you love is a massive plus, but doing something to live off makes it more exciting. I wish I was debuting now.
"NZC has done a great job bringing in contracts, combined with us having the flexibility to play in these T20 leagues, just like the men."

The 27-year-old accepted that in an international career spanning more than a decade she might never play a test, but that was worth off-setting against the current growth.

"Tests are the pinnacle. If I don't play one it's a bit of a shame, but there are plenty of opportunities to have a crack in other formats.

"I always knew T20 could be a driver for the women's game. Everyone has taken that on-board. That's the golden ticket because it's exciting, fresh and shorter, and can get more people to watch."

- NZ Herald

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