The Timaru Herald

Why white’s not right for women test players

- Fiona Thomas

When Tammy Beaumont started her period on the first day of England’s test against India this summer, she immediatel­y feared the worst, given that she was wearing the most impractica­l attire – traditiona­l cricket whites.

How would she manage lavatory breaks? What would happen if she leaked live on television? Ahead of her first test in seven years, it was the last thing she wanted to be worrying about.

‘‘I was the opening batter, so I actually did ask the umpire, ‘What’s the rules on a drinks break?’’’ recalls Beaumont.

‘‘It was a female umpire, so I said, ‘It’s day one’. She said, ‘I get you, it’s no problem, we can cope with that’. Literally on the second day, one of the Indian batters had to go off for that reason.

‘‘In the week leading up, everyone was working out whether they were going to come on or not. For a lot of us, being on while wearing whites for a test was quite a daunting prospect – there was an awful lot of anxiety around it.’’

Over the course of that five-day test, around half of the England team were on their periods. Nat Sciver’s, she says, arrived on day four.

The England all-rounder had previous experience, however, having bled on her test debut against Australia in 2014. For Sciver, undershort­s are now a must, but on this occasion there was an additional layer of protection to consider.

‘‘Our doctor actually offered us some medication to . . . lessen the flow,’’ Sciver says. Her partner and England team-mate, Katherine Brunt, can be heard giggling at her fiance’s descriptio­n from the pair’s hotel room a few weeks after the India test. It prompts a self-correction from Sciver. ‘‘I think ‘thin’ is the technical term,’’ she says, with a smile.

Talking about periods is still all too often a taboo in sport. But England women’s cricketers are on a mission to change the approach to female healthcare in the game, having helped set up a women’s health group with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The brainchild of Beaumont, who had an epiphany during the first Covid-19 lockdown while researchin­g female athlete health, the group focuses on closing the body-literacy gap among players in a bid to make marginal gains in

performanc­e following the introducti­on of domestic full-time contracts last year.

‘‘I started looking at my own experience­s of when I’ve maybe felt burnt out, just really lethargic, and couldn’t play well at all,’’ Beaumont explains, before expanding on her concerns. ‘‘If you want to have a baby, how do you come back [to cricket] from pregnancy? I always felt that, even though we’re supported if we wanted to, I would personally never do that because I don’t feel like I could physically get back in shape to play again.’’

A player survey revealed that menstruati­on and performanc­e, bone health, breast care, contracept­ion, pregnancy and fertility were the main issues players wanted to know more about. Premenstru­al syndrome – a combinatio­n of symptoms that women commonly experience before their period – featured most strongly among player and support staff concerns. ‘‘There is not always the same breadth of research across women’s sport as there is in men’s, so it’s important we talk to the athletes and tailor our approach to ensure they’re as wellsuppor­ted and provided for as possible,’’ says Dr Thamindu Wedatilake, lead for the women’s health group.

Umpire Sue Redfern’s player management during the India test underlines the importance of gender representa­tion in decisionma­king roles on the pitch.

‘‘If a player needs to leave the field in an emergency – and I consider periods to be – it’s just a human, decent thing to do,’’ she says of Beaumont’s request during the series. ‘‘Women in sport already have it hard enough as it is.’’

Does Redfern feel that kit could be modernised for test cricket to adapt to women’s concerns? Redfern is realistic about any changes in the traditiona­l form, but feels adamant that girls should at least be allowed to play in coloured kit.

‘‘At that age group, it’s so important that girls feel bodyconfid­ent and body positive and wearing whites is probably not the most ideal situation for that,’’ she says.

‘‘Girls will feel completely petrified of coming on in the middle of a recreation­al match wearing whites. I feel quite strongly about this – in recreation­al cricket – to get more girls involved. It’s really important that coloured clothing is the way to go in that age group.’’

‘‘For a lot of us, being on while wearing whites for a test was quite a daunting prospect. There was an awful lot of anxiety around it.’’ England cricketer Tammy Beaumont

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? England’s Tammy Beaumont bats on day one of her side’s test against India at Bristol in June. Inset, Indian players celebrate taking a wicket during the test.
GETTY IMAGES England’s Tammy Beaumont bats on day one of her side’s test against India at Bristol in June. Inset, Indian players celebrate taking a wicket during the test.
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