The return of Test match cricket last week brought back a sense of familiarity long sought by so many.
Rain delays, English batting collapses and the result going down to the wire – it was as though nothing had changed, despite the lack of crowd.
As always, the tense and exciting game between England’s men and the West Indies was brought into our homes thanks to the fantastic coverage from Sky Sports and the BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS).
Alongside depicting the on pitch action, their coverage also reminded us that cricket is at the forefront of normalising the presence of female commentators.
The sound of Alison Mitchell, Isa Guha and Ebony Rainford-Brent behind the microphone has become as regular as England’s middle order throwing their wickets away over the last few years.
Many sports have seemingly been reluctant to include women in their broadcast teams until recently. And even when they have, they’re often very quickly criticised – who remembers the furore that followed Alex Scott, Eni Aluko and Vicki Sparks during the 2018 men’s football World Cup?
But when it comes to cricket not only have women become a regular feature; they’re deeply respected members of the cricketing family.
— Isa Guha (@isaguha) July 9, 2020
There’s no sense of a box ticking exercise here; all three are highly regarded and it feels as though they are rewarded with so many illustrious gigs purely on merit. And that’s how it should be.
A regular across the BBC since the early 2000s, Mitchell became the first regular female commentator on TMS in 2007 and is recognised as one of the best in the business. This was reflected by her peers when she was voted the SJA Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 2013.
A former world number one ranked bowler and World Cup winner, Guha made the seamless transition into the media during the early 2010s and has quickly become one of the most respected commentators around. Having worked for ITV, Sky Sports and Fox Cricket in Australia, she was named as the lead presenter for the BBC’s highlights shows this summer, the first time the broadcaster has shown any form of home Test cricket since 1999.
Rainford-Brent followed a similar path to Guha, who she won the 2009 ODI and T20 World Cup with, after retiring in 2010. She made her first TMS appearance in 2012 and became one of the first female expert summarisers to commentate on the men’s game. Having been a regular on TMS, she recently made the switch to Sky’s coverage and has already proved her worth. She also delivered an extraordinarily powerful speech on racism in cricket that you must watch.
— Alison Mitchell (@AlisonMitchell) July 12, 2020
Alongside these three regulars, our airwaves have also been graced by a host of other fine female commentators in recent years. Mel Jones and Natalie Germanos were a joy to listen to during last summer’s men’s World Cup and England internationals Charlotte Edwards and Alex Hartley have provided plenty of laughs and interesting points whenever they’ve appeared.
That’s not to say everything is perfect. There are still significantly more male commentators and pundits around and it has only been in the last five years that the presence of women has become a regular occurrence.
But what cricket is proving is that women most definitely have a place when it comes to talking about sport, especially ‘men’s sport’. Not that anyone should have ever doubted that would be the case.
Unfortunately that is exactly what many ignorant individuals do believe; women shouldn’t be allowed to commentate on men’s sport because they don’t understand it.
While we believe that men’s and women’s sport should never be directly compared (and instead celebrated in their own individual ways), only a moron would be of the mindset that a woman should not be talking about men. It’s the same game!
Cricket should not rest on its laurels though. Yes they are leading the way at the moment but there is still a lot more work to be done.
How many female print journalists can you name? Alongside Mitchell, Lizzy Ammon is one of a relatively small collection of women writing about the sport in this country while Australian Melinda Farrell is another well respected reporter.
It’s well known that the proportion of women in the sports media is significantly smaller than it should be. Statistics in the USA last year suggested that 90% of male sports reporters, journalists, broadcasters etc. were men. It’s just not acceptable.
But what Mitchell, Guha and Rainford-Brent are doing is proving that it is now possible for women to not only enter what is still a male-dominated industry; they can thrive in it too.
There are so many talented female sports journalists out there – let’s just hope they get the chance they deserve.
Cricket is back and with it is the hope that things can change, although perhaps not England’s fortunes with the bat just yet…