Tuesday, 9 October 2012

No Comparisons Necessary

Jess Cameron sweeps to the
mid wicket boundary
The Australian Cricket Team, led capably by Jodie Fields, defended their ICC T20 title with panache and verve, defeating England in the final at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Scheduled before the men's final, media attention finally had the opportunity to focus on the women's game and it couldn't have had a better set of athletes to watch. Clearly the premier teams in their sport, the world's best tilted at each other in a match which Australia, in all truth, dominated. Their batting was powerful, led by Jess Cameron, who top scored with 45 from 34 deliveries after Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy set the tone with an opening partnership of 51 at seven an over. All of the batters maintained an aggressive tone and despite good overs from Danielle Hazell and Holly Colvin, the Australians set the English a stiff task.

Perry removes Taylor
There was no dream start for their opponents and once Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor - the world's best - were gone, there was little left as wickets fell regularly. Lisa Sthalekar was superb again with the ball, extracting sharp spin at times and tying even the best of the batsmen in knots and Elyse Perry again took the big wicket, having Taylor slashing to Fields behind the wicket after bowling a tight off stump line. Perry again held two outfield catches, underlining what a superb athlete she is.

With the game gone, a combination of never say die spirit from Jenny Gunn and Hazell and some nervous fielding from the Australians, suddenly drew England close. Jess Jonassen dropped two catches, one of them a hot return catch from Gunn which found finger tips rather than palm. Alex Blackwell held the hardest catch in cricket, diving forward at a driven ball and snatching a screamer at cover. Replays again exposed the difficulty with slow motion replay on such catches but thankfully common sense umpiring from the stand awarded brilliance and avoided controversy. Cricket is the great leveller and an over later Blackwell dropped a sitter skied to her in the same position by Gunn and then threw wildly when it wasn't needed and gave away an extra run. It was uncharacteristic of the normal coolness of the former skipper but symptomatic of the pressure that aggression from the English tail was bringing to the table.

Former Tamworth cricketer (we love to claim them, don't we) Erin Osborne bowled the last, expensive over but Australia triumphed by four runs.

It was a fabulous game of cricket as part of an exciting night for cricket fans.

The game also highlighted the dependency on technology which has developed among our elite umpires. 3rd umpire replays and referrals were supposed to take the pressure off umpires by allowing a slow motion check of the vision to ensure correct decisions. Instead, it has created a group too scared to make a decision. Billy Bowden, the once flamboyant signalling extrovert so full of confidence it was excruciating, twice referred decisions "umpstairs" and both were clear cut and obvious - one was checking a potential no ball in a dismissal when the bowler's heel landed 30cm behind the line and on another occasion for a run out when the batter was passing the stumps as the bails were removed. If our top umps can't give those without replay, its time to either remove the technology or remove them. Two sets of decisions just slows the game down, leads us constantly to anticlimax and ruins the ebb and flow of a great game.

Since the win, the media has been its odious self, making comparisons with the men's game and inciting genderist comparisons which help no one and belong to the editorials of the Women's Weekly circa 1950's. The Australian team played great cricket during this T20 tournament and apart from praising their skill and courage and determination, that's where it should end. Comparing their results to the Australian men is simply pandering to gender stereotypes that need to be buried in the past they belonged to. Our community has moved on and a reluctance by the media to report this team for their achievements - even female reporters - is a slight on them and the Australian community.

Winners are grinners ...
... in their own right.
I had hoped that Mark Nicholas' comment when introducing Belinda Clarke at the Allan Border medal ... "they are so talented and aren't they so lovely" ... was an abhoration from a man steeped in the English culture of keeping women in their place as though society was still an 18th century novel. Apparently not. Did he introduce Michael Clarke by saying he was Australia's most talented cricketer and a cute looking fella to boot?

These women are the best at what they do in their chosen sport. That should be enough but then, it should be enough to accept every woman on her merits with her gender being only a marker of physical difference that does not determine her skill, her intellect or her worth. Its true that many men also suffer from having to fulfil society's gender stereotyping but not to the same organised or insidious extent as women. Whilst its no worse to denigrate Elyse Perry's ability by commenting on her good looks than it is the woman at your workplace, its just so distressing that our media is prepared to do it so publicly and lead the chorus of men in this country typified by a mate of mine who always says as a codicil to any discuss about women's cricket "yeah, but it ain't real cricket, is it?"

Still, when some of our political leaders can't accept women as equals, what can you reasonably expect of the community.