Thriplow lead the way in promoting girls’ and women’s cricket in Cambridgeshire
An evolution is taking place at Thriplow Cricket Club that is mirroring a trend around the world.
The trajectory of girls’ and women’s cricket is on an upward curve globally, brilliantly demonstrated by the viewing figures at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia earlier this year, which saw 86,000 attend the final at the MCGand 1.1billion watch the ICC’s coverage of the tournament online.
Closer to home, Thriplow are at the forefront of the development of the women’s game in Cambridgeshire.
They have dedicated girls’ teams at under-13 and under-14 levels, were set to have a senior team in the inaugural Women’s East Anglian Premier League season this campaign and have players throughout the club playing in the boys’ and men’s teams too.
“We’’re the only Cambs teams in the EAPL, but there are a couple of others looking to play T20 cricket – their cohort is just a bit younger, that’s the main thing,” says Duncan Walker, who is managing the women’s and girls’ cricket at Thriplow and one of the team of ECB coaches at the club.
“We’ve always wanted to encourage women’s and girls’ cricket. We think it’s important, we think it’s great for the game, we think it’s great for the club, and we had the fortune some years ago with the strong age group that enabled us to kick that off.
“We didn’t start with a grand plan of having a women’s team in the EAPL and running a set of girls’ teams, it’s more evolved that way in order to cater for the players we’ve had.
“We’ve made a deliberate attempt to encourage women’s and girls’ cricket within the club, that’s true. I fully expect there to be several women’s teams in Cambs within the next few years playing regular league cricket because that is the way the game has developed.”
It was in 2013 that Thriplow first started a women’s team, giving players the chance to play against other women’s sides in addition to the cricket they were already playing.
Most of them were under-14s, but there was a development league in the county and the side were victorious at the first attempt.
By providing that opportunity, it meant that more players arrived at the club and, in turn, that allowed more teams to be started across the board.
“We’re pretty flexible according to the cohort we’ve got in making sure we provide the opportunities we can do to the players of all ages,” explains Walker.
“Mixed cricket is where we started and I think it’s where everybody starts because you need a particular critical mass of numbers to have girls only cricket.
“There are some great things about that. There is no real difference in the quality of play – physicality starts to become more significant as they get older.
“It’s a good challenge for girls to be able to play in mixed teams. Some prefer playing girls only, not all of them but some do.
“You’re more likely to attract more girl players if you have girls only teams, but also if you have girls only teams it tends to give them more opportunities to challenge themselves in national and regional competitions which they wouldn’t have done in the mixed teams.”
There has been a noticeable growth in girls’ cricket in schools, predominantly in the independent sector at present.
Together with family encouragement, which has always existed, it has boosted the profile of the sport as girls see other girls playing.
“It used to be a bit of a case of ‘that’s interesting they’ve got a girl in that team’, now it’s just everybody knows that junior cricket is girls and boys, that’s just something you do, so that has moved a bit of a barrier as well,” says Walker.
There were set to be seven teams in the new EAPL set-up, with Thriplow flying the flag for Cambridgeshire alongside clubs from Norfolk and Suffolk.
Thriplow’s older set of players are university students, while the average age of the women’s team tends to be around 17.
They also have five players in the Regional Development Centres, the level below the England academy.
The success is something that runs through the club. Each year they enter sides in the Lady Taverners’ competitions, and 2019 proved to be particularly successful.
“Our under-15 team were regional champions,” says Walker. “We won the South East and went through to the national finals which were played on Merseyside.
“You tend to come against very good teams elsewhere in the region, and get taught a bit of a lesson. There was one team in Kent that we had played twice before and got thumped over the years, but we played them in the semi-finals last year and beat them by 120 runs.
“They had been regional champions the last four years so that was a real measure of our progress. We had great hopes this year as well.”
And, before the current national crisis, there were plans to broaden the appeal to older age groups.
“We recognise there is limited opportunity for adult women to come into the game, because the coaching is so good for the younger girls, it’s difficult for older players to come in,” says Walker, with the intention to run beginners and improvers sessions for adults.
Things may be on hold at present, but Thriplow are building a bright future for women’s and girls’ cricket in Cambridgeshire and beyond.