Mixed teams the way out
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Sarah Taylor, the England women's wicketkeeper, is in talks with Sussex to play for their second XI. At 23, Taylor is already counted among the greats of women's cricket, averaging nearly 40 in ODIs, with the second-highest strike rate among players with over 1000 runs.
Could Taylor make the leap to the first team and become the first woman to play first class cricket? Her challenges include getting used to a larger ball, facing pace at 90mph and playing longer innings ó most women's cricket is limited-overs.
No matter how successful her Sussex seconds stint, Taylor has made an important statement. As a non-contact sport whose great names include plenty of small and skillful players, cricket should have no issues with mixed-gender teams. Taylor herself played alongside boys for the Brighton College first XI and even played against England fast man Stuart Meaker.
In India, a number of top women's players train with U-16 and U-19 boys' teams, and play unofficial club matches alongside boys. It's imperative that they do this. If you play for your state, but aren't in the zonal team or in the national reckoning, you will probably play just four 50-over games and four T20s in a season. At age-group levels, competitive fixtures are even fewer. And if you're a talented cricketer but happen to study in a school that doesn't have a girls' team, tough luck.
It would make sense, therefore, for schools to allow girls to play for their boys' teams. Till around 15, boys should have no real physical edge. Skill-wise, there's no reason that girls can't match up, given the same amount of attention from coaches. If such legislation were to come in, it remains to be seen how many coaches adopt the enlightened approach of Taylor's at Brighton College. "The coach said he didn't care whether it was a boy or a girl," she revealed in a recent interview. "He'd always pick the best player."
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