Jon Swift
2 minute read
14 Apr 2018
9:15 am

Let’s hear it for the girls in sport

Jon Swift

This week, a hat-trick of World Cup winners has women making up the majority of Wisden’s 103-year-old Cricketers of the Year award for the first time in history.

Nadia de Klerk of Northerns celebrating her second wicket with her team mates during the match between Northerns and Gauteng on day 3 of the CSA National Women's Week at University of Free State on April 06, 2018 in Bloemfontein, Free State. Picture: Gallo Images

Outside tennis, where the world’s top women’s players share pay parity with their male counterparts in the Grand Slam tournaments, the playing field for sportswomen remains largely an uneven ploughed strip.

But while women still struggle to level that playing field, things are starting to change fairly dramatically.

Admittedly, some of the changes are incremental, but others represent major steps forward.

This week, a hat-trick of World Cup winners has women making up the majority of Wisden’s 103-year-old Cricketers of the Year award for the first time in history, with Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole and Nat Sciver all named in the top five for 2018 – an accolade that can only be won once in a career.

Only twice before have female cricketers been among the list of leading players from the previous English summer – Claire Taylor broke new ground in 2009 and Charlotte Edwards followed five years later – but that heady day last July, when Knight lifted the trophy at a packed Lord’s, has seen the floodgates open.

To add an extra touch of feminine charm, Baie Des Iles – a spectacular grey – with Katie Walsh aboard is the favourite to win today’s Grand National at Aintree.

And while it is one of truths inherent in steeplechasing – there is seldom a sure thing in steeplechasing – but should Walsh win, she will emulate Michelle Payne, the Australian jockey who won the 2015 Melbourne Cup, riding Prince of Penzance, and was the first female jockey to win the prestige race, which brings Australia to a halt.

There have been other inroads to the macho world of professional sport.

The CEO of the Australian Rugby Union is Raelene Castle and the chief executive of the Western Australian Cricket Association is Christina Matthews, Australia’s most capped female wicketkeeper.

As noted earlier, these are incremental changes in a world where the glass ceiling largely still holds sway over the seats of power, but taken as a whole, they are evidence that the impetus is shifting.

The time is now .

And as Nobel laureate Bob Dylan so aptly noted, the times they are a-changing.