Cup broad­cast will help raise pro­file of women’s game

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

SHORTLY af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the South African squad for the World Cup, a loud cheer erupted around the venue when it was an­nounced that each of the team’s matches at the tour­na­ment would be broad­cast on Su­perS­port.

It is a big deal – a very big deal for the play­ers, who rather than be ner­vous about the prospect of more peo­ple watch­ing them than ever be­fore, are em­brac­ing the ex­tra at­ten­tion that will be on them from Sun­day when they play their open­ing match against Pak­istan.

This year’s Women’s World Cup has the feel of a big sport event, more so than pre­vi­ous tour­na­ments and its not just that the fi­nal is at Lord’s (on July 23) or that prize-money is $2-mil­lion but that there’s been a growth in the women’s game that could have con­se­quences for play­ers beyond just the tour­na­ment.

Though the growth has been slower, the cre­ation of T20 Leagues in Eng­land and Aus­tralia – and the pos­si­bil­ity of a Women’s IPL – means the tour­na­ment will be a shop win­dow of sorts for many play­ers. Al­ready the likes of Meg Lan­ning and Ell­yse Perry of Aus­tralia and Sarah Tay­lor of Eng­land are bonafide stars in their coun­tries while fol­low­ing her as­ton­ish­ing per­for­mance in last year’s Women’s World T20 in In­dia, Stafanie Tay­lor is a house­hold name in the West Indies.

That West Indies vic­tory was sig­nif­i­cant in that it broke the hege­mony of Aus­tralia and Eng­land. It sig­nalled that while other na­tions may not be able to match the re­sources of Aus­tralian and English, that a well of tal­ent ex­isted.

Do­ing so of course would make the World Cup a bet­ter prod­uct which is what the ICC is bank­ing on this year. With the ex­cep­tion of New Zealand’s tri­umph in 2000, Eng­land and Aus­tralia have dom­i­nated the event, the Aussies, de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons who’ve ap­peared in ev­ery fi­nal have won the com­pe­ti­tion six times.

With Perry and Lan­ning in their line-up they are favourites again this year, but many ac­knowl­edge that the gap between them and Eng­land and the other six teams has shrunk.

Much of that is down to the ex­po­sure the likes of Tay­lor, Dane van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp and Suzie Bates of New Zealand have got­ten through play­ing in tour­na­ments such as the Women’s Big Bash and the Su­per League in the UK.

Many com­men­ta­tors are look­ing for­ward to big­ger scores at this year’s tour­na­ment with Lan­ning, Tay­lor and Bates set to bat­tle it out for the lead­ing run-scorer in the com­pe­ti­tion. Kather­ine Brunt (Eng­land), Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand) and Shab­nim Is­mail of South Africa, are a trio of quick bowlers who stand apart from the usual medium pace that is as­so­ci­ated with the women’s game.

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