A Spark Of Hope For Women’s Cricket In The U.S.

The future remains uncertain for USA women’s cricket.
USA and MCC at the Merion CC, Philadelphia
USA and MCC at the Merion CC, Philadelphia

A USA women’s cricket squad of 22 participated in a development camp a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia. The camp culminated with games against the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) from England.

MCC is not just any cricket club from England. It was founded in 1787 and it remains the most famous cricket club in the world. It is also home to the most famous cricket ground in the world – the Lord’s Cricket Ground. In 1788, the MCC laid down the laws of the game and today, the MCC remains the custodian and arbiter of Laws relating to cricket around the world.

Lord’s is home to a couple of cricket clubs but most notably, the England Cricket Board, the European Cricket Council, and up to 2005, the International Cricket Council (ICC). So to call the MCC women’s tour to the US a treat, is an understatement. It was special. We had cricket royalty visit us in the beautiful suburbs of Evansburg and Haverford.

As if the rich history of the MCC was not enough, two of England’s best cricketers, Charlotte Edwards and Claire Taylor, were leading the team.

At age 36, Edwards captained her national team for the last time in this year’s T20 World Cup. She finished the tournament as the second highest “run-getter” with the second highest score and the second highest batting average. She was unarguably the second best batter to eventual World Cup-winning captain, Stafanie Taylor, but her team could not make it past the semi-final.

Edwards was dropped after the tournament by management seeking a fresh start for the team, and subsequently, she closed the curtain on her illustrious 20-year international career.

From the cricket pitches in India at the T20 World Cup to the matting wickets in Philadelphia, Edwards was here as part of a noble mission of the MCC to help promote the game in countries such as ours. Edwards and her teammates spent a considerable time between sessions talking with us, imparting knowledge, and fielding our questions.

I was fortunate to be on the “USA Red” team to participate in Edwards’ Master Class while “USA Blue” played the rest of the MCC team. “USA Red” and “USA Blue” represented the 22 players, split to form two even teams. My team played the first game of the day and we received a sound trouncing by Edwards as she retired on 52. At least that was the excuse I used with some of my teammates for being afforded the extra time with Edwards. The excuse didn’t work but the videos were some consolation.

That day one of our own replied with a 51 not out score. It wasn’t scored as quickly as Edwards’ but it was a half-century recorded against the most famous cricket club in the world.

On the final day we played at USA’s equivalent to Lord’s – another MCC. But this time, it’s the Merion Cricket Club. Merion CC boasts a 151-year old history. You step into the grounds and you feel like you’re in another world. The field is immaculate because on any given day, the field can be transformed into two-dozen, grass tennis courts.

Captains toss against the backdrop of Merion CC
Captains toss against the backdrop of Merion CC

We were not allowed to wear spikes. That’s just one of many rules to help keep the facilities as beautiful as it is. Merion CC is an extremely exclusive club. It is also the very first time the club is hosting a women’s cricket match and what better match than the MCC out of Lord’s versus the USA women’s team?

There is so much beauty in the details of the architecture. There are motifs of some of the sports being played at the club – cricket and tennis. The hospitality of the members is equally impressive. When you’re at Merion CC, you can’t help but feel something special is always happening.

We lost that day to the MCC in a low-scoring match but we ended on a very positive note. First, it was bitter-sweet to run out Charlotte Edwards for zero runs. Sweet because we gave her no chance to make runs against us but bitter because we were no longer going to see her beautiful batting on display.

Only the players understand that we have come a long way since the start of women’s cricket in the US. Having everyone take a fresh start that weekend with fitness tests and games, was a gauge for where we are and how our games have improved, stagnated, or dropped. Many players have since expressed a great desire to refocus their energies on improving their games.

USA huddle before the second innings
USA huddle before the second innings

The future remains uncertain for USA women’s cricket because plans have not yet been laid out for next year. Our desire is to be permitted to return to international competition and with the recent camp in Philadelphia, our appetites have been teased and there is hope for the very near future.

The only thing that is certain for women’s cricket in the US is that ICC has documented the goal for our national team to qualify for the 2020 T20 World Cup, which means qualifying in 2019. This means two things: 1) There is going to be a 2020 T20 World Cup which is currently not in the international calendar; and 2) The road to qualification has to begin now with international exposure if we are to qualify a mere two years away.

That weekend in Philadelphia provided a spark for our women cricketers. Eyes wide open. Heart pumping and desire blazing. Yet, we are not the leaders of our destiny. Our cricket future is in the hands of a few who will meet to decide, among other issues, to give women’s cricket in this country, thumbs up or down. Let’s hope it’s a happy day in that meeting.