Campaigners achieve aim of gender equality with commitment to T20 double-header
The women’s Varsity match looks certain to be played on the main square at Lord’s for the first time following pressure on Marylebone Cricket Club and the universities’ cricket clubs.
While the men’s Varsity match has, in one form or another, been played at Lord’s for almost 200 years, the women’s match has never progressed beyond the Nursery ground.
From 2022, however, all that is set to change. After a campaign launched by former Oxford captain, Vanessa Picker, MCC and the cricket clubs of both Oxford and Cambridge universities have committed to ensuring gender parity in future Varsity fixtures. That means that, from next year, the matches will be scheduled as a T20 double-header on the same day at Lord’s.
The news represents a significant victory for Picker and the Stump Out Sexism (SOS) campaign she co-founded.
A statement released by Cambridge University Cricket Club (CUCC) said: “CUCC is pleased that MCC has publicly agreed to host both women’s and men’s Varsity matches on the main square at Lord’s in 2022. CUCC confirms that it will in future ensure that both teams have equal opportunities at Lord’s, and will deliver specific proposals for the format of next year’s Varsity day (in liaison with OUCC and MCC) by the end of September.”
Claire Taylor, the former England batter and current vice-chair of Oxford University Cricket Club, also welcomed the news.
“It has always been our intention to explore the possibility of a double header at Lord’s, but it was a question of when; ensuring that any change in format would be sustainable,” Taylor said. “Playing a men’s and women’s double-header on the main ground at Lord’s in 2022 will be an exciting prospect for all involved and a real opportunity to celebrate varsity cricket. We thank MCC for the opportunity.”
Despite the suggestion from both cricket clubs that this is the outcome they had long sought, Picker had been lobbying for such an outcome for almost three years and had met with significant resistance. It was only when she involved MCC – and the media – that the university cricket clubs were persuaded that the pace of change had to be accelerated. It may well be that, behind closed doors, MCC made it clear that any future invitation to the universities was dependent upon them ensuring gender parity.
While welcoming the development, SOS reiterated their belief that “there is a still a very long way to go”. They are planning a demonstration outside Lord’s this Saturday (May 22), when the men’s Varsity match (a 50-overs-a-side game) is scheduled to be played.
“We are very pleased to see that both OUCC and CUCC have publicly committed to accepting the MCC’s offer of a gender-equal Varsity fixture in 2022,” the group said in a statement. “This is a symbolic first step towards Lord’s becoming as much the ‘Home of Cricket’ for women as it already is for men.
“Nevertheless, there is still a very long way to go. It has taken over two years of sustained efforts, multiple denied requests from the university clubs, and ultimately attention from (notably male) journalists to reach this point. Throughout the process, we have realised just how deep these issues of inequality run within the cricketing world. We will, therefore, keep pushing for change.
“We will also still be demonstrating outside Lord’s on Sunday to highlight the severe lack of women’s matches on the MCC’s 2021 fixture list, and to acknowledge the almost 200 years of exclusion of women from the Lord’s Varsity fixture.
“This is a good start, and we are proud of what our campaign has achieved so far, but this is not the end. It is rather the beginning of something much bigger. Change is coming. Sexism can and will be stumped out.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo