Media coverage of women’s sport has undergone a revolution in the UK.
Despite being neglected for years women’s sport is finally getting exposure via multiple media channels.
On Wednesday 1 May, the BBC launched its Summer of Women’s Sport Season: ‘Change the Game’ for all women’s sport action this summer.
Test Match Special will bring full ball-by-ball coverage of every match of the Women’s Ashes (July 2 – July 31) across the BBC radio network and BBC Sport online.
World Cup winners, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Charlotte Edwards, Lydia Greenway and Mel Jones join ex-TCP columnists Alison Mitchell and Isabelle Westbury, amongst other TMS regulars, to cover the series.
Despite the competition the Women’s Ashes face being aired alongside the Men’s Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon, Ebony Rainford-Brent believes there has been a kind of movement towards thinking about the summer of cricket as a whole.
Rainford-Brent said: “What is good is how I can see a shift in culture, every time I’ve been doing interviews people are saying ‘oh the Men and the Women’s Ashes,’ whereas in the past it would have been just the Ashes and that’s the assumption of the men.”
The success of the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup highlighted the drive for the women’s game to be part of the narrative.
Rainford-Brent wants to see further development of the game growing at grassroots level adding: “The conversations I’m having with young girls parents have changed over a decade in that they wouldn’t consider it but now young girls want to play and want to be part of something.
“The big question for me is how we build household names, how we build narratives around people starting to get to know the players, I think that builds interest.
“We’re humans at the end of the day we want to connect and we want to build those relationships and that involves a wider thing – of seeing more of Tammy Beaumont on A Question of Sport and these sorts of programmes to build the profile or have a direct impact on people being drawn to wanting to go.”
This summer sees England’s women entertain Australia and Rainford-Brent considers Katherine Brunt crucial to England’s hopes in regaining the Women’s Ashes.
“She’s had her injury challenges and we saw that at the start of the winter. It’s a different England bowling attack for me with her, because I think when Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are in unison they do a lot of damage and the threat does not wane.
“It’s her character that she brings to the environment, I have played with Brunt for many years, roomed with her, she is an extra-ordinary character but I don’t think I’ve come across many sports people with that depth of emotion or felling which she is able to control and bring on to the pitch because the early career was harder for her to control and she’s learned to control that and channel that.
“She (Brunt) is most probably my favourite all time cricketer male or female in that sense of passion and people feed of it, therefore with the Ashes coming back here, if we’re brutally honest Australia are slightly ahead of England at the moment, but she to me is vital to be on the pitch to translate that into runs.”
Adding to this is Heather Knight whom she feels boosts the batting line-up: “You’ve got Natalie Sciver, Tammy Beaumont and all this batting and I think Knight for me is proof that the Joe Root role of holding an innings together and if she’s in form I think she because she can be adaptable she can kick on a little if she needs to or she can hold back and anchor an innings.
“If Brunt and Knight are fit and firing England will have a great Ashes but if one of them isn’t on a game or fitness comes in more for Brunt it will be questionable.”
Ebony’s close links with Surrey are apparent as she names as her unsung hero as Surrey Stars Sophia Dunkley whom she describes as having a ‘sparkle’ despite her injury issues at the start of her career with the Stars.
“She’s been able to come in and create this kind of role as a back-end finisher and can offer you a bit of bowling to be coming in at number six or seven and be quite dynamic quite quickly.
“She won the Stars a lot of games in that role and then England we saw her come out and something similar and I thought there is a niche for her.
“If Mark Robinson, who really backs the girls, if she gets a window this summer I think she could prove a new star on the circuit that could be a long-term ‘Change the Game’ new player.”