Fears for women’s sport after lockdown – NW Evening Mail

Heather Knight has voiced her concern at women’s sport becoming an afterthought once some sort of normality resumes, but the England captain is hopeful that momentum built at the T20 World Cup will not be lost.

It has been a revolutionary past few years for women’s cricket, exemplified last month when 86,174 people packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Australia retain their T20 crown by beating India in the final.

But the onset of coronavirus has led to a shutdown of professional cricket in this country until at least July 1, delaying England’s limited-overs matches against India, which were scheduled to start at the back end of June.

There has been plenty of speculation at when and how the men’s team can resume this summer and while Knight can see why they are one of the top concerns, she wants to avoid her side being put on the backburner.

Asked about the possibility of being left behind, Knight said: “That’s the worry in women’s sport across the board, not just in cricket. We’ve obviously got to accept that the most commercially viable parts of the game will be given priority.

“But we’re making sure that the women’s game gets a bigger voice and we’re given the same sort of chance to get back playing as the men are. I guess it’s making sure that this has as little impact as possible in the women’s game. I’m sure there will be some impact as there is in many walks of life. That’s just the way of society at the moment.

“But I’m hopeful that when we do get going again, the game won’t be affected too much and hopefully people will really support it.”

There are reasons for optimism, not least because of the crowd that turned up at the MCG for a match that could have been played behind closed doors, postponed or even cancelled as the threat of the pandemic grew stronger.

Knight said: “I’ve only ever seen it like that for a Test match, that was pretty cool knowing it was for a women’s game. I just hope it was not just a one-off event and that support continues and the people that came to watch and enjoyed will continue to do so, not just in Australia but all over the place.”

In a further boost, the England and Wales Cricket Board says funding will not be affected in the long-term as it intends to carry out the two-year action plan it rolled out last October, aimed at transforming women’s cricket.

Any return to the field this summer will almost certainly take place behind closed doors while the unprecedented nature of the current crisis means nothing that could be viable is off the table.

The logistical factors of merely getting two international sides on to the same playing area in the next few months will be manifold but Knight is willing to be flexible.

She said: “I’ve been trying to remember all the things from my biomedical science degree – it turns out I didn’t learn too much at uni!

“Obviously I want to get back playing cricket in whatever capacity it is and if it is safe to do so and safe for the public as well.

“Whatever it looks like, whether it’s in an isolated and safe environment then I’m sure lots of the girls would be keen to do that, just to get back playing cricket and having some purpose for our training.

“But I think the main priority is making sure everyone’s safe and their families are safe. As long as that’s the case, I think everyone would be keen to be adaptable and fit in to whatever way cricket can get back being played.

“I know the women’s section of the ECB are doing as much planning as the men’s. We’re just hanging tight and hoping there’s some chance we’re going to get some cricket in later in the summer at least.”

Knight was one of three quarters of a million people to apply for the NHS volunteer scheme launched last month to help fight Covid-19.

However, she said: “They couldn’t verify my identity, unfortunately. I left my flat in London to move into my boyfriend’s place in Bristol during lockdown and the addresses didn’t match up.

“They’ve had so many people sign up that they’re not taking applications anymore but it’s amazing that so many people have been generous and given their time. But it’s a bit of a shame I won’t be able to do anything.”

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