TELFORD VICE in London
HEATHER Knight and Mithali Raj have played 373 tests, one-day internationals and T20s for England and India. Only six of those games have been at Lord’s, where they will lead their teams in the World Cup final on Sunday.
Alastair Cook, England’s most capped male player, has turned out for his country 238 times — 31 of them at Lord’s.
If that doesn’t illustrate that cricket’s most self-important ground has been relegated to the status of the former home of a game that now lives in Dubai and works in India, this might: what do Desmond Tutu and Diana Edulji have in common?
Both have been refused the questionable privilege of mingling with the infamously pompous inmates of the Lord’s pavilion; Tutu in 1994 because he wasn’t wearing a jacket, Edulji in 1986 because she was a woman. That she was also India’s captain at the time didn’t cut much ice.
Tutu’s predicament was, of course, more easily remedied than Edulji’s. Any surgery contemplated should have been performed not on her but on the Marylebone Cricket Club members in the pavilion — above the neck as well as below the waist.
Women finally made it into the pavilion on match days in 1999, or 109 years after it was built. In fact, they are still struggling with access to Lord’s: the players in Sunday’s final weren’t allowed to train on the outfield on Friday and Saturday.
But that’s because of the rain that began falling on Friday night and may yet disrupt the final, what with Sunday morning forecast to be cloudy but dry until 1pm (UK time) — when there is a 50% chance of rain that intensifies to 60% by 3pm. Play is scheduled to start at 10.30am.
India’s players might not mind their parade being rained on after their suits promised them a bonus of the equivalent of more than R1-million each for reaching the final. The support staff will take home more than R500000 each.
For Raj, who was part of the team who lost the final to Australia in Centurion in 2005, there were other signifiers of change in the women’s game.
“It’s completely different to 2005 because the whole world is watching,” she said, perhaps having taken note of the fact that Lord’s is sold out for Sunday’s match and read a release from the International Cricket Council (ICC) that said the group stage of the tournament had captured a global audience of more than 50-million.
Many of those would be in India, which despite the undoing of the ICC big three remains where cricket shakes it money-maker most effectively.
“Everybody back home is rooting for us, and there might be a lot of changes if India win,” Raj said.
“A women’s IPL [Indian Premier League] might be in the pipeline.
“Not even the final was televised in 2005. Now the whole of India is sitting up and watching us.
“This World Cup is probably the turning point for the whole of women’s cricket.”
Knight was able to suspend her adversarial instincts for long enough to concur: “India being in the final is the best result for women’s cricket.”
The women’s game, then, will celebrate a great day on Sunday — regardless of the weather both inside and outside the pavilion.
But it has a way to go to catch up to, say, women’s football: more than 750-million watched the 2015 World Cup.