Sophie Devine backs smaller, lighter ball in women’s cricket

Jun 10, 2020

  • Matt Roller

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      Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98

Sophie Devine, the New Zealand captain, has advocated the use of a smaller, lighter ball in the women’s game to encourage attacking cricket.

Under current regulations, the ball used in women’s cricket is fractionally smaller and lighter than that used in the men’s game. According to both the laws of the game and the ICC’s regulations, the ball should weigh 140-151g with a circumference of 21.0-22.5cm in women’s cricket, compared to 155.9-163g and 22.4-22.9cm respectively in men’s cricket.

Speaking in the ICC’s ‘100% innovation’ webinar, Devine suggested that using a slightly smaller, lighter ball than now could help the women’s game flourish.

“I’m a bigger fan of looking at a smaller ball but keeping the pitch the same size,” she said. “That way, I reckon bowlers are going to be able to bowl the ball quicker, spinners are going to be able to turn the ball more.

“Hopefully, the ball should fly a bit further as well, whereas you’re still keeping the traditional length of the pitch. It’s a very interesting one.

“If it’s going to help the game flourish, I think: why not? Why would we not have a crack at it and see what happens? I think you’ve always got to have a bit of trial and error and see what works.”

Jemimah Rodrigues, the India batter, also spoke in the webinar, and suggested that using a pitch shorter than 22 yards could help to attract more fans to the women’s game.

“You’ve got to accept the fact that there are slight differences between the [men’s and women’s] games,” she said. “But we can also be open to trying it out.

“If that is going to help the game improve and take it to the next level, then why not? Why not think about it?

“At the end [of the day], we want to promote the game. We want to get more people to watch the game and join the game. It’s a good idea, and you can be open to it.”

Rodrigues also voiced frustrations about the lack of opportunities she has had to play Test cricket. Since making her debut in 2018, Rodrigues has represented her country 60 times in limited-overs internationals, but India have not played a Test match since 2014.

Both Rodrigues and Devine used the example of the women’s Ashes – which is played across all three formats – as an “outstanding” way to structure a series, and suggested that the format should be copied by other boards.

“I’d love to play [a multi-format series],” Rodrigues said. “Whenever we get the opportunity to watch the Ashes, where they get to play Tests, T20s and ODIs, sometimes I get a bit jealous that they get to play Test cricket.

“It’s a long time since India has played a Test match. I’d definitely be very excited to look at a multi-format series, and hopefully we’ll have that soon.”

“The Ashes is outstanding,” Devine said. “I’d love to see that [format] brought in for any bilateral series: it doesn’t matter if it’s New Zealand vs India, New Zealand vs Australia, whoever it is. I just love the concept that every game matters and it all goes towards the final, overall winner.”

Both players also came out in support of the possibility of staging a women’s Champions League T20. While there are no proposals for such a competition on the table as things stand, the webinar’s host Mel Jones suggested staging a tournament between the winners of each country’s franchise competition as a showpiece event.

“It would definitely be interesting to see a Big Bash team, an IPL team, a Super Smash team combine and playing,” Rodrigues said. “It’s not just [about] internationals playing, it’s also the domestic players from that particular team.

“It would be very interesting to see these teams clash, and you’d definitely have a lot of entertainment as well as a lot of good games and a lot more learning for the players.”

“I’d have to stay loyal to my Wellington Blaze,” said Devine when asked which of her many teams she would most like to represent if the event came to fruition. “A Champions League would be so exciting, bringing together different teams from different countries.”

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