I run the risk of sounding sexist here and generalising on a grand scale and apologise beforehand if I do. A couple of weeks ago, someone we know was given a handful of tickets for the Australia v England women's T20 match at the Essex Count Ground here in Blighty. The match was a part of their Ashes tour and we went along... My wife who doesn't like cricket and my two lads Joe 12, Ben 14. The weather was good and it was a late start evening match meaning they ended up playing under lights for the 2nd innings. I'm not a massive cricket fan, who goes all the time, but I've seen a few test match games featuring a number of the test match sides... England, Australia, Pakistan and India. I play cricket at 3rd and 4th XI club level and therefore play alongside youngsters 15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds. But, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw that evening...
I work in FE education teaching girls between the age of 16 and 25, our college has sports qualifications and I see some of the activities that they get involved in, but overall I must admit I kind of write girls off as being a lost cause when it comes to sport. So this game I watched was a revelation, I was absolutely amazed at every aspect of the game, I've never seen cricket played with such intensity, commitment, agility and skill as both the England and Australian sides. Maybe it's the same in mens T20, but without witnessing it, I'm sceptical? Maybe I have such low expectations of women's sport, that this reality which may be normal for avid sports watchers - was just totally new and unexpected for me?
I was amazed at how fit they were overall, simple things like, if one of the girls did something spectacular inside the circle, some of the girls on the boundary would think nothing of running in congratulating her and running back to their fielding position. Not once, but throughout the game, as though conservation of energy was not on their radar. Whilst fielding, they were continually running as sweepers almost 1/4 of the way round the pitch at full tilt to then put in a spectacular dive at full stretch for the ball to land cleanly as if magnetised into their hands to then land and get up within a fraction of a second getting the ball 95% of the time straight back to the keepers hands. It was draw dropping amazing and again not a one off or restricted to one super fielder, but all of them, it wasn't like they were human, they were super-human, I've never seen anything like it in my life. I've seen some amazing surfers, the worlds best, I've seen premiership football (which is as dull as hell and totally over-rated) but this was incredibly good. The English wicket keeper Sarah Taylor was simply astounding, standing up to the stumps to the 'quicks', taking the ball from full blooded hook shots almost wearing the bat in the face and she doesn't wear a helmet! A cat couldn't have reacted that fast on speed. Looking around for something to back up or explain the no helmet rationale I found this http://www.theguardian.com/sport/sarah-taylor and reading some of it, I'm not alone in recognising the super-human aspects of these girls, Taylor in particular - being discussed within the ECB it seems, as an option in the mens game, she is that good!
I've read and heard before, that in the future, the fact that because of the biology of women and thier in-built superior recovery rate, which comes as a result of having to go through child birth and then get back to looking after a family, this puts women in a potentially superior place to men. They apparently run marathons and go through other physical long haul endurance tests and recover at far faster rates than we do. With todays diets and the developments in sport science are we looking at a period soon where women's sport starts to have parity with men? Because the evidence I saw at Essex a couple of weeks ago would suggest that the day is far closer than I'd ever imagined.
I'd recommend Women's international T20 cricket to anyone if it featured either England or Australia, it was for me the greatest sports spectacle I've ever seen with regards skill, agility, speed, commitment, stamina and more besides!
*Note; As with a lot of people who write on the internet, I am not an expert and I have to admit some of the stuff above relating to Women and their recovery rates is not substantiated and I don't recall where I got that info from. This morning I've searched for some data from a more reliable source and somewhat worringly, this article came up 3rd place in the search on Google!
I found this http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/injuryprevention/a/ACL_prevention.htm which was interesting because it claims that women in some instances are more likely to sustain injuries than men, but it doesn't then go on to say anything with regards my claim that they recover quicker once injured. Again because this is 'About.com' the sources for their claims like mine are vague and unsubstantiated. If you are looking for the truth, you're advised to look at books, they're far more reliable!
Later....(From - http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/phys-ed-what-exercise-science-doesnt-know-about-women/?_r=0 )
What all of this emerging science means for women and the scientists who study (or ignore) them is not yet completely clear. “We need more research” into the differences between male and female athletes, Dr. Rowlands says. In his own study, a particularly intriguing and mysterious finding suggested that the female cyclists somehow sustained less muscle damage during the hard intervals than the men did. Their blood contained lower levels of creatine kinase, a biochemical marker of trauma in muscle tissue. Did oestrogen protect the women’s muscles during the riding? And if so, why did the female cyclists who ingested protein complain of sore and tired muscles during the sessions? “Honestly, I don’t know,” Dr. Rowlands says, adding that he does not think that his findings suggest that women should skip protein after exercise. “It’s true that we didn’t see evidence for a benefit,” he says. But his study was one of a kind. The findings need to be replicated.
In the meantime, female athletes should view with scepticism the results from exercise studies that use only male subjects. As Dr. Rowlands says — echoing a chorus of men before him — when it comes to women, there’s a great deal that sports scientists “just don’t understand.”