EXCLUSIVE: Yorkshire's Katie Levick on the turmoil of women's cricket and the danger of a lost generation
The future of England women’s cricket is in turmoil with players, coaches and fans unsure of the structure and schedule of their sport next season and beyond.
In an exclusive interview with NewsChain, Yorkshire's Katie Levick talked about the uncertain future, describing it as a “massive cloud of what-ness”, and fearing how this could result in a “lost generation of cricketers".
Sheffield-born Levick, with her unorthodox “frog-in-a-blender” leg-spin bowling action, has amassed 190 wickets for her county and was the top non-international wicket taker in the Kia Super League. But even for Levick, with her 29 wickets at an economy of 6.6, there is no guarantee that she will have a contract next year.
“Essentially we’ve got to the end of the season and a lot of girls don’t know if they’re either playing county cricket next year or if they will be included in any new set-up within the system at all when it gets introduced.
“We finished our last Yorkshire county game of the season and basically all said our goodbyes to each other because it’s probably the last time we’d all play together and that was the end of it,” she added.
The ECB director of women’s cricket, Clare Connor, attributed the recent Ashes dismantling to the difference in the domestic structures in England and Australia, saying they were a “big contributing factor” to the defeat and called for a revamp of the women’s structure here.
Connor has said that the planned £20m investment into women's cricket will transform the game for girls and women in this country.
"We've got to try to cater for everybody and that's what our plan is looking to do," said the former England captain. "We've got to make Premier League club cricket better and we've got to make sure that the offer is right for players of all age and abilities.
"The reality is that the current structure is not going to accelerate the performance of our best players."
Changes have already been made with the discontinuation of the Kia Super League and the introduction of “The Hundred” which will run alongside the men’s version but the county circuit structure is still undecided.
Levick believes these changes should have happened earlier saying: “It’s just really late. I think we’re just trying to copy the successful structure of the Australians when we should have been doing it for years.
“But I suppose better late than never!”
For county players such as Levick, who are not part of the England set-up, the uncertainty of the future of county cricket and the replacement with national hubs, makes planning life difficult.
The proposed concept for 2020 is replacing the current county setup with eight to ten regional "hubs" which are an amalgamation of counties. These "hub" teams will supposedly play both T20 and 50-over cricket but it has not yet been finalised even as the 2019 season draws to a close.
“They’re changing the whole system as far as I’m aware" said Levick, "but I can’t really say that we know much other than it not being as it has been in previous years.
“We don’t really know what we’re returning to next year from a county side of things. It's not the best for planning your life."
There are currently only 22 central contracts offered to female cricketers by the ECB, meaning that those playing at county level must still have jobs to earn their money. Levick said: “We can’t just hang around hoping that I might get one of the 22 contracts. We’re adults now and we’ve got bills to pay so we need some idea.
“It’s just very sad to think there’s just gonna be a lost generation of cricketers in their mid to late 20s. We don’t know if we’d be chosen for the semi-professional hubs and if that’s enough to live off. The idea of being a cricketer is great but are you gonna risk your wage at the end of the day in the hope of doing that?
“We might have to wait five or so years to get England back on top and that is at the sacrifice of a whole generation.”
England’s men experienced an unforgettable summer of cricket winning the World Cup and drawing a thrilling Ashes series but Levick feels this has been at the cost of the women's game.
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“It’s been a busy year in cricket so women are even lower down the pecking order,” she said. “It’s like they say “we’ll sort the women out when all the men’s stuff has died down. Oh wait no no.”
For the likes of Katie Levick, that time to sort it out is now.