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Forty more women to make a living from cricket as England play catch-up to Australia

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“Must do better” has become a mantra for Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, when speaking about the game’s appeal to women and girls and the chicken-and-egg effect that has on England’s ability to produce a big enough pool of world-class players.

The ECB’s elaborate plan to overhaul the game for women and girls, unveiled in central London on Tuesday, aims to address the problem by allowing another 40 women to make a living as full-time professional cricketers, offering greater incentives for players to stay in the sport and increasing the depth of England’s talent stocks.

The Transforming Women’s & Girls’ Cricket strategy commits £20 million over two years, which is expected to grow to £50 million in the next five years, to improving player experiences from club to elite level.

The 40 new domestic contracts will be awarded in addition to the existing ECB central contracts currently handed to England’s top 21 players in an attempt to keep talented players in the game when they would otherwise have to drop out to earn a living elsewhere.

While the ECB won’t say how much the new contracts are worth, Connor said they were “in line with” Professional Cricketers’ Association recommendations and, when added to earnings from The Hundred, would be “not far off what one of the lowest-paid England centrally contracted [women’s] players are currently earning”.

The PCA’s recommended minimum salaries for players aged 18-24 in 2019 ranged between £18,433 and £26,114, although those figures are now being reviewed for 2020, when the minimum wage for full-time professionals kicks in at £27,500. The PCA said after Tuesday’s announcement that discussions with the ECB were “positive but ongoing” regarding player payments.

Connor said the plan was for the number of domestic contracts to increase over the next five years.

“The feedback from lots of county meetings and talking to a lot of people and from talking to our own staff from a performance perspective, was that it would be better to have a smaller number of full-time pros who aren’t trying to juggle further education or part-time jobs,” Connor said.

“It’s not an end point, it’s certainly the start point to try to get to somewhere near 100 by the end of the strategy, but to have a group of pros underneath the centrally contracted group who are full-time cricketers is more powerful than having, for example, another 80 or so who are very part-time earning a very part-time wage.

“It will give us a pool of players who should really be pushing much harder for England places than a larger number of semi-professional players would.”

Back in July, as England stared down an eventual 12-4 Ashes series drubbing, Connor said Australia’s superior domestic structure and investment model had been a telling factor. By increasing the number of women who can make a living from cricket, the ECB hopes to emulate Australia’s success. England won the 50-over Women’s World Cup in 2017 but were beaten by Australia in the World T20 final last year.

In another move aimed at bridging the gap between domestic and international level, the entire domestic structure will be revamped from next season with the existing 34 first-class and national counties grouped into eight regional teams which will play a 50-over competition from 2020 and both 50 and T20 competitions from 2021.

The biggest region is London and the East, comprising first-class counties Middlesex, Northamptonshire and Essex plus six national counties. Each region will have an administrative centre, to be determined by early December, with a dedicated regional director of women’s cricket. Loughborough is likely to play an important role, given its high performance facilities, and Connor said alliances would likely be formed between the regions and their respective teams in The Hundred with “some alignment of players and staff”.

Connor was also comfortable with the salary bands for players in The Hundred, although there was an ongoing aim to address the disparity between women’s and men’s earnings. The lowest-paid men will earn £30,000 from The Hundred, while the lowest-paid women will earn £3,000.

“No women in this country were even paid to play cricket until five years ago and whilst there’s no one more impatient than me in that area I think we have to be realistic about where we are and we have to acknowledge that what we’ve done across the Women’s Hundred is we’ve benchmarked it across a lot of women’s sports competitions – FA Women’s Super League, Women’s Big Bash, the direction of travel for the women’s IPL – and it’s a really good start point,” Connor said. “There is huge commitment to close that gap as quickly as we can.”

Other initiatives announced as part of the plan include the introduction of an Under-19 women’s program next year to prepare for an ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in 2021, expanding cricket programs to more primary and secondary schools, increased funding for girls’ county age group cricket and a pot of funds for clubs to improve girls’ recreational cricket.

There remain holes and unanswered questions, including the lack of an elite domestic T20 competition next season and the fact that players not on central or domestic contracts will still be forced to make tough decisions on their future career path. But 40 more professional players is far better than the status quo and the ECB plans to hold information sessions for players on how the new structure affects them once the regional hubs are finalised in December.

England captain Heather Knight said there was no better time to be a woman playing cricket.

“I remember I was a 14-year-old girl and I was training with the Devon boys team,” Knight said. “The coach asked for a show of hands, ‘who wants to be a professional cricketer?’ A few of the boys put their hands up and I thought, ‘I’m going to put my hand up as well’ even though it wasn’t an opportunity at that moment for girls to be a professional.

“I thought maybe it might change in the future and yeah, I’d love to do that as a job. So I stuck my hand up and a few of the boys sniggered a little bit, so it’s great now that it can be professional and not just at an international level.”



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Haseeb Hameed signs for Nottinghamshire after Lancashire release

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Haseeb Hameed, the opener released by Lancashire less than three years after starring in his debut Test series for England in India, has signed for Nottinghamshire on a two-year deal.

Hameed attracted interest from several counties – including Worcestershire – after his release but the lure of Trent Bridge and the opportunity to work with Peter Moores has seen him sign a deal with Nottinghamshire, despite their relegation to Division Two of the County Championship.

“I’m very excited to be joining Nottinghamshire and playing my cricket at Trent Bridge,” Hameed said. “I’ve enjoyed myself every time I’ve played at this great venue and hope to add to some good memories there.

“This is a new chapter in both my life and career and I’m full of excitement to start working with my new teammates and helping get Notts back up to Division One where they belong.

“I want to thank Lancashire for the support they’ve provided over the years and to my teammates, whom I’ve shared a dressing room with. A special mention to Mick Newell and Peter Moores at Notts for believing in me – I can’t wait to get started.”

Hameed – still only 22 – enjoyed a breakthrough season for Lancashire in 2016, when he hit 1198 runs in Division One of the County Championship, including an innings of 122 at Trent Bridge against a Notts attack including Stuart Broad, Harry Gurney and Imran Tahir.

His impressive run tally – as well as his temperament and his ability against the turning ball – won him a spot on England’s winter tours, and he made two fifties in six innings in the 2016-17 series in India, scoring 82 on debut in Rajkot and an unbeaten 59 – with a broken finger – in Mohali.

But his form disintegrated dramatically over the next three years. He lost his place for the 2017 home Test summer, as his average in the Championship dipped to 28.50, and the following year he made 165 runs at 9.70. He started the 2019 season with an impressive 117 in an early-season Championship game at Lord’s – having also scored 218 against Loughborough MCCU – but it proved a false dawn, and he only passed 50 once after that innings.

The theories behind Hameed’s loss of form are plentiful. Some suggest that his technique changed game-by-game with several different coaches competing to make changes, while others claim that he lost his judgement outside off stump after being brought into Lancashire’s limited-overs teams. Other note that his record again seam bowlers was never outstanding – at least not in comparison to against spin.

His release from Lancashire came as something of a surprise, despite regular public criticism from director of cricket Paul Allott. At the start of the 2019 season, Allott told Wisden Cricket Monthly that Hameed was “hanging on by his fingertips” at the club.

“He’s got six months left on a contract, and he’s not scored a run for two years,” he said. “Not only is he a million miles away from England, he’s hanging on by his fingertips at Lancashire.”

Hameed will hope that a change of scene, and a chance to work with one of the most respected coaches on the county circuit, can reinvigorate his career.

“There’s no doubting Haseeb’s talent,” Moores said. “It doesn’t get much tougher than Test cricket in India and he proved over there, at a very young age, that he has all the skill, temperament and patience to succeed at the highest level.

“He’s enjoyed some more difficult times since then, and that’s going to happen with young players, but the ones that are destined for great things bounce back and move their games on again.

“We believe that’s what’s going to happen with Haseeb and it’s great news for Notts that we can be the ones to benefit from that.”



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Ajinkya Rahane moves from Rajasthan Royals to Delhi Capitals

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Ajinkya Rahane has been traded from Rajasthan Royals and will play for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2020. The move was confirmed by the IPL and both franchises on Thursday, the final day of the trading window. Rahane has become the second high-profile player to be acquired by the Capitals in the trading window after R Ashwin, and he’ll join a line-up that is already top-heavy, with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer in the top order, with Rishabh Pant to follow.

Rahane is the Royals’ most capped player and has played 106 matches for the franchise, with 100 matches coming in the IPL and six in the Champions League T20. He has represented them since 2011, with the exception of the 2016 and 2017 seasons when the team was suspended. He is also the Royals’ leading run-getter, having scored 3098 runs for them overall, at an average of 35.60 and a strike rate of 122.30. In the IPL, he has scored 2810 runs for the Royals at an average of 34.26 and a strike rate of 122.65.

He has captained the Royals in 24 matches, winning nine and losing 15. Rahane had faced some criticism for his strike-rate at the top of the order for the Royals in IPL 2018, when he tallied 370 runs at 28.46 but at a rate of only 118.21. He improved those numbers significantly in IPL 2019, with 393 runs at 32.75 and a strike rate of 137.89.

As part of the trade, the legspinning duo of Mayank Markande and Rahul Tewatia will move from the Capitals to the Royals. That also makes Markande the first player to be traded twice between seasons – having gone to the Capitals from Mumbai Indians earlier.

Markande played only three matches in IPL 2019, losing out on the legspinner’s spot to Rahul Chahar in the Mumbai side, taking one wicket and conceding runs at 9.83 per over. He had made his IPL debut with Mumbai in 2018, bursting onto the scene as an unknown and taking 15 wickets.

Tewatia played five matches in IPL 2019, but bowled only 6.2 overs overall, picking up two wickets. This move will mark a return for Tewatia to the franchise he started his IPL career with, having been part of the Royals in 2014 and 2015. He was also part of Kings XI Punjab in 2017, before the Capitals secured his services in 2018.

Their addition gives the Royals a surfeit of leggies, with Shreyas Gopal already in the team and expected to be the frontline spinner.

“Rahul and Mayank are both extremely talented cricketers with a bright future ahead of them. I am confident they will excel at Rajasthan Royals,” Delhi Capitals co-owner Parth Jindal said on the occasion. “I am also extremely honoured to welcome one of India’s most stellar and consistent batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane, to the DC family. When the franchise underwent a revamp last year, a decision was made to keep Indian players at its core. The result was there for everyone to see, with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma performing brilliantly for us, and complimenting the youth that DC has in Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Prithvi Shaw, among others.

“That thought process has continued for us this time around as well, as is evident in the signing of Ravichandran Ashwin, followed by that of Ajinkya Rahane. I am sure Rahane’s wealth of experience, and familiarity with the conditions will help Delhi Capitals go a long way in IPL 2020.”

The Royals had used one of their Right to Match cards to buy Rahane for INR 4 crore in the IPL 2018 auctions, following bidding between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians which Kings XI won. Tewatia had been bought by the Capitals for INR 3 crore, from a base price of INR 20 lakh. Mumbai had bought Markande for his base price of INR 20 lakh.



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Jack Leach signs Somerset contract extension

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Jack Leach, the England left-arm spinner, has signed a two-year contract extension with Somerset that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2022 season.

Leach, who was born and raised in Taunton, has been part of the club’s system since his childhood, and has been a first-team regular since the 2016 season, when his 65 wickets at 21.87 apiece nearly fired Somerset to a first Championship title.

He was perhaps unfortunate to miss out on a red-ball central contract with England – he has been given an incremental contract instead – and is currently in New Zealand, preparing to play in the first Test at Mount Maunganui on November 21.

“I’m very happy to sign this new contract,” Leach said. “I’m a Somerset fan at heart so I’m very proud to represent the county. I have a great relationship with the members and fans, and I can’t thank them enough for the support they give the team and me as an individual.

“I’d also like to thank Jason Kerr [head coach] and Andy Hurry [director of cricket] for the belief they have shown in me. I’m looking forward to the winter and can’t wait for next season.”

Hurry said: “Everyone at the club is delighted that Jack has committed his future to Somerset. He is an exceptional talent and a big influence in the dressing room. I can’t speak highly enough of him both as a player and as a man.

“He has a genuine passion for the game and in particular for Somerset. That shows itself every time he trains, in his diligent preparation and in his wholehearted performances every time he takes to the field. We feel that he has a major role to play for both Somerset and England over the forthcoming years.”

Leach’s extension is something of a blow to Dom Bess, the offspinner who played two Tests for England in May 2018 but found himself in the Somerset 2nd XI later that summer.

Bess – who twice went on loan to Yorkshire last summer – is contracted until the end of next season, and is unlikely to change clubs this winter despite Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale publicly registering his interest in making that move permanent. But having played only nine times for Somerset in all formats last year – seven in the Championship and twice in the One-Day Cup – another frustrating season may leave Bess with no choice but to look elsewhere given he retains ambitions of a long international career.



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