New Zealand’s investment promise the latest step forward for women’s cricket

This article was first written and published for The Roar

Throughout the duration of the Women’s Ashes in July this year, plenty of conversations were happening on a global scale about the professionalisation of women’s cricket.

The Australian women dominated the series, winning 12-4 (with England’s only points coming as a result of a drawn Test match and victory in the final T20).

Australia’s dominance raised several questions – did Australia have a mental edge over England? What sort of investment do England need to make in women’s cricket? If investment is not made by England and other countries around the world in this space, will the Australian women continue to forge ahead and thus widen the gap?

In response, we have seen the England Cricket Board make an announcement about a proposed 20 million pound injection into women’s cricket, though we still await clarity on how that money will be spent.

Australia's captain Meg Lanning with the trophy smiles after winning the final of Women's cricket T20 Triangular Series.

Meg Lanning. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

We do know that the KIA Super League will be dismantled in favour of ‘The Hundred’ which will be a professional 100-ball cricket league beginning in July 2020. Additionally, there has been some mention of aligned elite 20 and 50-over competitions which are expected to pay a small full-time wage.

This week, perhaps spurred on by the ongoing conversations about the professionalisation of the women’s game, New Zealand have also announced plans to invest.

Under a new agreement which has been reached in principle by New Zealand Cricket and the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, the player payment pool will double for the White Ferns.

What this means practically for the women who are part of the White Ferns squad, is that they can earn up to $80,000 which is up from an average of $48,000 in previous years.

At the moment, there are 17 contracted White Ferns players earning between $44,000 and $64,000 so these new payments will be particularly significant for these women.

The White Ferns can also earn up to $16,000 in match fees per year, each.

Importantly this agreement includes domestic players for the first time and as a result, increases the number of contracted players from 17 up to almost 80.

This investment in domestic cricket also demonstrates a commitment from New Zealand cricket to develop pathways and ensure that the appropriate support systems are in place to support the elite players and the development of the next generation of elite players.

Earlier in the year, Australia and New Zealand played each other in the Rose Bowl which was a three game series. Australian won all three games. At the time, some commentary emerged from some of the New Zealand women acknowledging that the game for the Aussie women was full-time professional, in stark contrast to a situation in New Zealand where it was not.

While not making excuses, there was recognition of the advantage that the Aussie women have in having the opportunity to hone their craft full time.

Although these investments will not quite make that the case for the White Ferns, this is certainly a step in the right direction and is from what I understand comparable to the rest of the world.

This agreement means that while the White Ferns will be earning much less than the top Australian and Indian internationals, it places them almost on par with England and significantly ahead of the rest of the world.

To me this signals an intention from England to consistently be one of the top four women’s cricketing nations in the world. With established players like Suzie Bates, Amy Satterthwaite, Sophie Devine and Lea Tahuhu and then up and comers like the incredible Amelia Kerr, there’s no reason this team can’t be among the best in the world.

With investments like this one, it may take some time to fully realise the rewards.

When you consider the Australian example, it has really only been in the last year that they have really asserted their dominance on a global stage.

This was Australia’s most dominant performance in the Ashes since the multi-format series was introduced in 2013. Additionally, since the start of 2018, the Aussie women have only lost three matches (across all formats) and have gone undefeated in several of the series and tournaments which they have played.

While it may take some additional investment and time for New Zealand to be in such a place, this investment is a positive start and coincides well with the announcement that cricket will feature in the next Commonwealth Games to be held in the UK in three years’ time.