LONDON, England (CMC) – England Women's Captain Heather Knight said her side's recent tour of the Caribbean was like "going back in time" and urged the sport's administrators to pay greater attention to international matches to counter the threat of franchise tournaments.
England Women, under Knight, dominated the Hayley Matthews-led West Indies Women, winning all three One-Day Internationals and five Twenty20 (T20) Internationals they contested in Antigua and Barbados.
The matches on the tour were played in front of modest crowds with limited media interest and broadcast coverage reliant on webcasts from Cricket West Indies — with the decision review system (DRS) unavailable in all matches.
Knight said it was not good enough, and it was important for administrators to keep things in perspective and keep the international game strong — and invest in it — or else the chance to play "less cricket for more money" could undermine international games.
"It's so important to keep the international game really strong," she said in an interview with Sky Sports. There's obviously a lot of changes on the horizon with franchise competitions: Indian Premier League (IPL), Pakistan Super League (PSL), lots of those kicking off.
"It's really important that international cricket is looked after and it's strong in all countries and it's still the pinnacle of the game, which it obviously still is."
The exodus from the women's game has started to impact teams, with West Indies all-rounder Deandra Dottin and former South Africa Captain Mignon du Preez choosing to retire from international play this year and concentrate on shorter domestic formats.
In addition, the inaugural seasons of the women's IPL and the Women's T20 League of the Pakistan Cricket Board will both be held in March, after the ICC Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa.
They will join the line-up that includes The Hundred in England, Women's Big Bash League in Australia, Fairbreak Invitational in the United Arab Emirates, and Women's Caribbean Premier League as major short-form leagues providing opportunities for players.
"But you see the changes that are happening in the men's game and, actually, I think the changes in the women's game could affect things more if people decide to go down the franchise route and play less cricket for more money, potentially," Knight added.
"I think international cricket needs to be looked after, and it might affect the women's game more with the difference in professionalism around the world and the difference in some teams in the depth because of the differences in domestic leagues and things like that. It's been a little reminder, I think, that international cricket really needs to be looked after and invested in."
On the lack of the video umpire and DRS on the tour of the Caribbean, Knight said: "You just become used to it, and you take it for granted that you have those things – like in domestic competitions back home. But ultimately, it's all about money, isn't it? And money available to put into those resources.
"It has felt like a weirdly low-key tour… no media out here, not a huge amount of coverage. It's felt like we've been able to go about our business. Obviously with the (T20) World Cup coming up, it's going to be very different, and we'll be very much in the spotlight. It's been a bit of a strange one."
Knight said, though her side was not seriously challenged by the Windies Women, they managed to achieve some of the targets they had set before the start of the trip, and they will be hoping that this can position them to be more competitive in bigger matches.
"We [weren't] massively challenged, which is a shame, but I think we've done a lot of things really well and a lot of boxes that we wanted ticking have been ticked," she said.
"The West Indies put us under pressure in the last couple of games. In terms of growing as a side, you always want to be under pressure and win those tight games because it sharpens you up, but when we haven't had that, we've tried to create a few things where we put ourselves under pressure and have tried a few different things.
"[But] winning is great, you get so much confidence and momentum from winning, so that's really important. I think we've done as much as we can this trip, and then we'll have a few games pre the World Cup to fine-tune things and get super-ready come that first game."
Coincidentally, England Women begin their campaign in the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2023 in South Africa against West Indies on February 11 in Paarl.
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