Women’s cricket is growing rapidly in white-ball formats but the equivalent of the World Test Championship is far from reality. Ahead of the one-off Test between India and England, the idea of a WTC for women excited India’s vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, but England opener Tammy Beaumont said the time for it was not quite right yet.
The men’s WTC is in its third iteration with nine teams part of it. But the ICC has primarily used T20s as the driving force for the women’s game. Last year, ICC chair Greg Barclay, in an interview with the BBC, said “there is no doubt that white-ball cricket is way of the future” and brushed aside women’s Test cricket “evolving at any particular speed”.
Since 2017, there have been only six women’s Test played – three of which were outside of the Women’s Ashes. India have played two Tests since 2021 while South Africa played one last year.
Mandhana, who is India’s most experienced current player with four Tests, expressed delight at the idea of a WTC for women.
“I would love to be part of a World Test Championship,” she said ahead of India’s training at DY Patil Stadium on Tuesday. “But that is for the boards and the ICC to decide. Having watched a lot of men’s Test cricket and men’s Test Championships, that would be an exciting thing to be a part of.”
But Beaumont, who has played eight Tests, felt different and said there need to be more teams playing women’s red-ball cricket for that to happen.
“At the moment it is only three or four nations playing Test match cricket regularly, and potentially only three or four governing bodies who can afford to host women’s Test cricket,” Beaumont, who scored the first double-century in women’s Tests for England earlier this year, said.
“It would have to be a very big investment from the ICC that I don’t think they are probably willing to put in to. They’re still trying to develop the T20 game across the globe, the way you’ve seen Thailand and other teams coming into T20 cricket, that should be focus.”
Currently, only the women’s Ashes takes place in the form of multi-format series, where a win in Tests is worth four points, and a win in each of the white-ball game is worth two points. A drawn Test gives both the teams two points and an overall series winner is decided after all the matches are completed. This format reduces the possibility of dead-rubbers since each match has points at stake. Beaumont called for more such multi-format bilateral series for teams to adapt to Test cricket.
“I would love to see more nations do the multi-format series like the Ashes – say India come over and we do Test match, ODIs and T20s and an overall winner from that and do the same with South Africa, New Zealand all those and build it from there,” she said.
“One day I would like to see a WTC but at the moment, I don’t think it would be fair when, say India, Australia and England have played a lot of Tests in the last four years and other teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand have not played Test cricket in the last 15 years. The imbalance is still there and we need to build it from the ground up a little bit longer and definitely have many Tests.”
Beaumont; We haven’t mastered Tests because of lack of opportunities
Given the rarity of Tests – and the pressure on players to put on a good show in order to get more matches – Beaumont admitted that there are nerves whenever a Test arrives.
“As a group of players, you do feel a bit more anxious around a Test match week just because it is a bit novel. The likes of myself, Heather Knight, Nat Sciver-Brunt we have been playing international cricket for 12-13 years but haven’t played that many Tests. If you think of that in terms of white-ball cricket, that’s your first year. So there’s more nerves because we haven’t mastered it because we haven’t had the opportunity to master it.
“You look at someone like Danni Wyatt – she made her debut at Trent Bridge at 32. You are constantly a young player at Test cricket, no matter how old your body feels. In the men’s game, 10 Tests is not even a career; that’s just a start.”
“If people are getting free tickets to watch a Test match, I don’t mind that at all. I’d rather that than a pretty empty stadium of 40,000 to be honest”
The home crowd going quiet makes you feel alive, says Beaumont
The tickets for the India-England matches are free of cost, and that saw the Wankhede Stadium filled for the last two T20Is over the weekend. While women’s matches in England have a minimum price attached, the BCCI has kept women’s cricket largely free of cost for spectators – be it the WPL or the ongoing series against England. The entry for home T20Is against Australia last year was free for women while men had to purchase an INR 100 ticket. All the matches saw huge turnouts.
Beaumont was unfussed on having a price on the ticket and welcomed the idea of more people watching the women in action.
“Having the Wankhede pretty much full was an incredible atmosphere,” Beaumont, who was in Mumbai with the white-ball squad even though she was only in the Test squad, said. “If it had to be free tickets for people to come in, I think it was worth it.
“From the grapevine you hear, what’s driving the kind of women’s cricket is broadcast deals. The big one for the series is it is on TV in India and England and the broadcast deals are being sold. Tickets sales are only a percentage of that even in England.
“For me as a player, having lots of people watching and creating that atmosphere – I say here it’s going to be against us the entire time. But if we have a good session and the crowd goes quiet, I think for me as a player, that’s what makes you feel alive. If that means they are getting free tickets to watch a Test match, I don’t mind that at all. I’d rather that than a pretty empty stadium of 40,000 to be honest.”