Nine months into his role as chief executive officer of the Jersey Cricket Board, Craig Meredith has formulated a promising plan for the growing number of females dreaming of global recognition in a red shirt.
The legacy of the recent Women’s World Cup in Australia – including the achievements of minnows Thailand – provides a sizeable stepping stone for up-and-coming nations like Jersey, who only made their international debut last August in an ICC-backed quadrangular T20 tournament in France.
Victories against the hosts, Austria and Norway steered the Islanders up to 37th on the world rankings – a standing which is likely to improve given the age of the current squad. Nia Greig, aged just 11, played in all four fixtures, with a host of teenagers also featuring.
‘A big remit that I want to look at is the women’s game,’ said Meredith, who unveiled Lee Meloy as the Island’s women’s head coach this week.
‘I’ve worked with Kent in the past and players like Tammy Beaumont and Lydia Greenway [England internationals] had to fight through their system playing boys’ cricket. Now, we’re in a position where 87,000 people turned up at the MCB to watch the Women’s World Cup final.
‘Not all countries are putting into the women’s programme as much as the top-flight countries but the ICC is trying to be one of the first sports to be gender equal. They’re at the forefront of pushing equality and we are excited to be part of that journey.
‘We’ve also now got Chloe Greechan [vice-captain] on board as a performance and development officer because I wanted a female role model. Having that kind of role model going into schools and coaching at grass-roots level shows girls that cricket is a game for them. It’s not just for boys and they can follow a pathway to globally televised games too.’
The JCB have developed a tried-and-tested route from junior to senior men’s cricket in recent years, which has produced a healthy handful of players now under consideration by county clubs. That success provides solid hope of a repeat for the women, with a couple of adjustments.
Meredith added: ‘That’s the message we’ve got to get across – Jersey is a unique place with regards to our cricket structure in that we can pick someone up at a young age and within five years they could be playing full-time professional cricket. There aren’t many sports who have as clear a pathway.
‘There is an amazing opportunity in Jersey for the women’s game and we can mirror the pathway for the men’s game and create a good product while appreciating that what drives female athletes is different.
‘We have got some seriously talented girls. Some are purely through cricket but we also have a lot of untapped talent playing hockey and netball, which both work well in terms of hand-eye co-ordination.
‘Jersey’s netball programme is world class, having produced the likes of Serena Guthrie, and I’ve reached out to Linda Andrews [JNA president and Team Jets coach] looking to do something together. Sports working together and combining resources for the benefit of all sport – it would be a nice thing to see and with hockey and netball being winter sports and cricket being in the summer, I think it all slots in well.’
Following Jersey’s impressive showing in France, Meredith and Meloy’s ambitions for the girls and ladies are equally as bold as those held for the men.
‘They did exceptionally well in France,’ Meredith explained. ‘That has got the girls on a high so now let’s show them that we’re deadly serious about what we’re doing. We have a new coaching set-up, a new pathway and they will be treated as similar as they can be to the men.
‘Within the next two or three years we want to establish a competitive women’s side. If you look at what Thailand just did in the World Cup – the majority of their players were from a softball and baseball background. It came completely out of nowhere and they did themselves proud.
‘Europe is a pretty strong region to get out of with England, Scotland, Ireland and Holland, and Germany are now putting a lot into their cricket programmes. We want to be able to mix with those guys.’
Meredith admitted that a planned tour to Middlesex in May is ‘on the brink’ amid coronavirus restrictions, although a potential trip to Austria for another T20 tournament could still take place in August.
‘We will carry on pushing to get to that, if it can go ahead,’ he said.