Bidwell: Why is no one criticising the White Ferns?

3:43 pm on 5 March 2020

Opinion - This is why the White Ferns aren't on the big bucks.

Dejected White Ferns players after their defeat to Australia during the 2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup.

Dejected White Ferns players after their defeat to Australia during the 2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

You'll have noticed that the team are now out of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup, following Sunday's four-run loss to hosts Australia.

You might also be aware that there was some disquiet about the level of prizemoney the White Ferns might have received, had they been good enough to win the tournament.

But what you won't have seen since the team's elimination at the group stage is any criticism.

That either indicates that no-one actually cares about the White Ferns or that there isn't anyone game enough to be critical of female cricketers. Because let's face it, New Zealand teams that fail at pinnacle events - and these White Ferns are serial offenders - routinely cop a kicking afterwards.

Let's start with the idea of interest levels. Is it that?

We're certainly given ample opportunity to care about the female game these days. Games are broadcast on pay television on a very regular basis, including those from domestic leagues in Australia and England.

Websites run match reports, profiles and team news, while New Zealand Cricket's Twitter feed is very informative where the White Ferns are concerned.

People don't throw resources at things that don't rate. News organisations know exactly how many people click on a story, and how long they stay on it, so let's assume figures show that a broad interest exists in female cricket.

Athletes want recognition and they want money. That's fair to say too, isn't it?

And if they feel some people enjoy more of both, purely because of their gender, then they speak up about it.

The White Ferns, and female domestic cricketers as a whole, have done that. They've said the disparity between what they're paid to represent New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington or whoever - and what the blokes get - is far too great.

It's just that with greater pay comes greater scrutiny and sometimes there's a lot to be said for not being held accountable to the entire nation.

Let's take the Silver Ferns. Everyone's got a soft spot for them now, but that hasn't always been the case.

Heck, after their failed Commonwealth Games campaign of 2018 the captain was made to cry on TV and the coach run out of the sport.

Was the reaction to their performances extreme? Maybe. But it was typical of how the public and media react when they are disappointed in a team - male or female - that they care about.

Is there any danger of the White Ferns being treated in a similar way? And if not, why not?

Because if that team want to be paid what they think they're worth and if they want to be recognised and they want to be respected, then they have to be prepared for what comes with that.

To sometimes be called chokers and losers, to have their games picked apart and to have poor deliveries or dropped catches highlighted.

Not to be commended for trying and wished all the best for next time.

I don't know about you, but I'm not bold or daft enough to have a decent dart at the White Ferns.

I'll point out that the lack of condemnation is unusual and then I'm shouldering arms. There's just something about women's cricket that stops me, and others as well, from writing about them in the same way we would other teams.

Whether that's right or wrong, that's the reality. But it's also a blessing for the players.

Fear of failure and of letting people down often cripples teams at tournaments. Australia themselves, unused to these levels of interest, started this T20 tournament in uncharacteristically meek fashion.

But that's not an issue for the White Ferns. No-one is going to hoe in if they play a bad shot and no-one is going to be critical of them if they again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Unlike many of their rivals, they should be able to go to these events and play with the freedom that comes from knowing there will be no consequences.

The downside is it's doubtful they'll ever end up making a fortune, but there's a lot to be said for having no-one really care whether you win or lose.

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