MELBOURNE Cricket Club does not eschew tradition on a whim. That made it increasingly significant that when this week it presented debutant cricket caps in its salubrious Long Room for the first time – usually it is done in dressing rooms – the beneficiaries were a clique who had never been able to represent the MCC: female cricketers.
Today will, weather permitting, mark the end the oddity of the MCC boasting men’s and women’s teams in niche sports such as lacrosse and croquet, but no women in the sport the club was formed in 1838 to play.
”All along, a number of us have been concerned we didn’t have women’s cricket. We’ve had women’s sport in other sections … it was totally incongruous,” said David Crow, an MCC committee member and chairman of its cricket division.
”It was never a conscious decision not to have it – I’ve got no idea why, it was just overlooked. It took a Cricket Australia strategy cascading down the levels to get the discussion going. As soon as Cricket Australia took it seriously, Cricket Victoria made it clear the expectations it had of cricket clubs … to move towards having women’s teams.”
The MCC’s two female committee members, Jane Nathan and Karen Wood, have strongly supported the introduction of a women’s cricket section, although support has not solely run along gender lines. Crow’s cricket predecessor at MCC, Bob Lloyd, was responsible for formally putting the policy on the agenda, to the point it was approved about 18 months ago. Since then, former Cricket Victoria executive Marcella Torre was charged with creating a two-team section from nothing.
The entrance of the MCC into the Victorian Women’s Cricket Association has not been without some angst, with existing clubs concerned their ranks would be pillaged by the upstart team. But the MCC has seemingly embarked on a youth strategy rather than a cherry-picking one, and will start the season without any VicSpirit squad members.
VWCA president Rachel Derham reckoned the introduction of the MCC into its firsts and seconds competition was a boost for the sport in Victoria.
”The MCC have thought ‘Hang on, there’s a gap here and we need to address it’, and they have … hopefully having a club like the MCC involved will lead to a bit more promotion of women’s cricket,” she said.
With overall participant numbers still an issue for elite women’s cricket, Derham said the introduction of a sixth first-grade club, the first new entrant in a decade, would be ”a great positive for the competition”, not least because it reduced the need for a bye every weekend.
As well as symbolic gestures such as the mid-week launch and cap presentation in the MCG’s Long Room, the MCC is also insisting on practical gestures that reflect its commitment to its newest players. The women will, subject to availability, play home matches at the prestigious Albert Ground. Furthermore, in their final training session they were given parity with the men’s Premier Cricket team – a policy Crow said would continue as part of the committee’s insistence they are ”not to be marginalised”. ”The women had two nets, the men had two nets. That’s very foreign for the men because they normally have the four, so there were guys standing around not doing what they normally do. It’s frustrating for a captain-coach to see men not practising, but Andrew [Kent, Melbourne men’s captain-coach] had to grin and bear that because it was the right thing,” Crow said.
”I was delighted to see that to be honest. It was a fantastic development … I felt it was a wonderful sign that ‘women’s cricket is here’.”
The MCC firsts will start their season – and club stint – against reigning premier Essendon-Maribyrnong Park at Aberfeldie Park. The MCC hierarchy is not expecting instant success – far from it – but insisted its enthusiasm would not wane in the event of adverse results.
”There’s no pressure on winning games this year, the pressure is to continually improve. We could get some pretty bad thrashings this year against some very strong opponents [but] that isn’t the focus. If next time we do better that’s what I want to see,” Crow said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.