Time to Wake Up and Accept the Obvious

So, anybody else been following the Women’s Cricket World Cup recently? How about the female version of the Six Nations? And did any of you follow England’s netball stars during their series whitewash of world number 1s Australia last month? I’m guessing for the large majority of you the answer is no to all three options…

We are supposed to be living in a society where men and women are treated as equals, yet when it comes to sport we still seem to be stuck in the early 20th century, where women playing sport was… well, just wrong. But personally I really cannot understand why women don’t get the coverage they deserve – some may argue that their games just aren’t as interesting to watch as men, but that is absolute rubbish. West Indies’ star batsman (yes, it is acceptable to call female batters this) Stefanie Taylor struck 171 off just 137 balls, with eighteen 4s and two 6s, for her nation against Sri Lanka in the group stages of the current World Cup. This was the third highest individual score for a woman in One Day Internationals and equal 27th when the men are combined too. This means she has a higher ODI score than world famous players such as Brian Lara (169), Brendan McCullum (166) and Ricky Ponting (164). How can you say after an inning like that that there is no excitement in women’s sport? True, it could be argued that this was a one-off, but then again only a naive person would do that. In the 2013 Women’s 6 Nations there has already been huge excitement with two games being won by the smallest of margins and England demolishing Scotland 76-0, including twelve tries. Now try telling me that is boring…

Some say this ‘lack of excitement’ is because women just aren’t as physical so cannot bowl as fast, hit as far or tackle as hard as their male counterparts. While it is true that is the case currently, surely that means they will just find other ways of winning. The likes of Katherine Brunt, England’s best seam bowler of the current era, and Anya Shrubsole, who took 13 wickets in just 5 matches at the World Cup, may not necessarily bang the ball into the deck as hard or as fast as Freddie Flintoff or Steve Harmison but they are so clever in the way they bowl, getting a large number of their wickets through drawing the batsmen into traps. The women’s skill level is arguably even higher in cricketing terms than their male counterparts, yet they don’t get any sort of recognition for it. And while watching men pile into each other just to gain a few yards in rugby union can be highly entertaining, it can also get quite boring if it happens too much, as was the case in both Wales-France and England-Ireland last weekend. The women play such free flowing rugby, with the wingers utilising their electric pace much more than Chris Ashton, Simon Zebo et al. Just because they aren’t as strong as men doesn’t in anyway make them any less interesting to watch.

And anyone who claims that women cannot be physical clearly haven’t ever watched a game of international netball. Even though I have only had access to highlights of England’s fantastic victory over our greatest sporting rivals it is clear to see that these women can play dirty if they want; pushing, pulling, tripping, scratching – it was all there! But the most violent display that the sporting world has ever seen must surely have come from American Elizabeth Lambert in 2009. Her university banned her from playing football indefinitely after punching, kicking, elbowing and even yanking an opponent’s hair so hard she fell to the floor in the space of just 90 minutes. That performance makes Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner’s man-handling of Celtic’s Gary Hooper in midweek almost tame.

But if you still have yet to be convinced by my argument so far, then all you need to do is look at the British heroes that came out of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Jessica Ennis, Ellie Simmonds, Katherine Grainger and Hannah Cockroft are all now household names alongside Ben Ainslie, David Weir, Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy. It was our women who played a huge part in 25 of Britain’s 65 medals at London 2012 and if they had the same number of event as the men then the gap would be even further reduced. Let’s hope that, as well as changing British society and sport as a whole, the greatest Games (from a very biased point of view) ever can change our perspective of women’s sport too.

But for this to happen women need to be given the coverage they deserve. The netball was only available to view on Sky Sports, with BBC providing radio coverage too, while there has been absolutely no TV coverage of the cricket World Cup – the only way to change the perspective of the public is to show them just how enthralling female sport is. Surely it’s better than just showing repeats of shows that really aren’t creditworthy of the great organisations that the BBC, ITV and others are? We need to get our heads out of the male chauvinistic and downright appalling state that sporting coverage seems to be stuck in and open our eyes to the great entertainment in front of us that is begging to be viewed.

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