By Max Towle of The Wireless
The commentary box for Black Caps games has traditionally been a boy's club, until now.
Sky TV is introducing at least two women to its cricket commentary team for this summer's Black Caps games in response to what it acknowledges is a distinct lack of diversity in the sport.
Just over a week ago, Australian network Nine was slammed after it revealed a lineup of eight white men in its commentary team for the summer, beginning with the Ashes series against England:
Former Australian captain and one of the commentary team, Michael Clarke, told news.com.au, "I actually had a conversation ... to find out if we were having a female this summer and the answer was 'no' so I left it there."
Today, Sky TV told The Wireless it would not make the same mistake.
"We are pleased to be adding more female talent to join Laura McGoldrick and Rikki Swannell on this year's 'Summer of Cricket' coverage," Sky said in a statement.
Sky said White Ferns legend Maia Lewis would join its commentary team for the second Test in Hamilton next weekend. Fellow legend Debbie Hockley will also commentate on international matches.
Sky defended its record: "Last season Rikki [Swannell] became the first woman to commentate on Sky's live coverage of Super Smash matches. This year Rikki will commentate on a number of Test, ODI and T20 matches that will be held over the summer."
Laura McGoldrick is Sky's "roving reporter", who provides colour during breaks in the action by interviewing players and members of the crowd.
Sky said: "We are really pleased with the line-up of female talent in SKY's Cricket commentary team this season, and it doesn't end there. We are always looking for new talent and we will announce new names as they are confirmed."
Sky said its growing female team represented "a huge step forward" for female cricket commentary. The company said it wants to ensure newer voices are coming through.
"It's also worth noting that there is also a significant contribution made to the coverage by women behind the cameras as well as in front of them. There are ten women working on today's coverage carrying out jobs such as camera operator, director's assistant, production manager, VT director and floor manager," it added.
A year ago, a damning independent report on the state of women's cricket in New Zealand was published by New Zealand Cricket.
The Women and Cricket report was written by management consultant and former player Sarah Beaman. It found over 90 percent of cricket clubs didn't have female only teams, while over 60 per cent of clubs didn't offer cricket for girls at all.
A week ago, Beaman told RNZ that since the report, "cricket has responded incredibly well".
"They've shifted from 11 females in governance at national level to 35. So 35 women are now involved at board level, that's a significant shift in a year to 18 month period," she said.
"So that's now all Black Caps and White Ferns under one high performance structure, which is quite a shift because the White Ferns were out to one side previously, so that gives the White Ferns access to the same sort of resources that the Black Caps are getting."
Beaman said Sky's diversification of its commentary box for Black Caps games was a "good start" in tackling a persistent problem.
"The research that I did made it quite clear that there was a real lack of female commentators, and one of my favourite quotes from those I spoke to was, 'we need media attention that suggests cricket is just as much a female sport as a male sport'," she said.
"We need to recognise that females have just as many qualities as males and ability to commentate - obviously Sky has now identified Debbie and Maia and I hope they'll be given the right training to have plenty of confidence."
Earlier this year, former broadcaster Melodie Robinson launched W-Group, which provides mentoring and aims to encourage more women to pursue careers in sports media.
Beaman said it was positive to see momentum building towards more sustainable changes.
"One of the things Melodie Robinson talked about was that the viewing public can hold women to higher standards than their male counterparts. I hope those watching Sky acknowledge the incredible experience and knowledge people like Debbie and Maia have, rather than focusing on what they look like," she said.