Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sarah Taylor should not play Men’s cricket – it’s a different game

Sarah Taylor has spoken about the moves to get her to play County cricket - possibly for Sussex and initially in their second team. On the interviews I saw she didn't actually seem that keen - and I don't blame her. The point is that the Men's game and the Women's game are different. For Sarah to "move up" to County cricket suggests that the Men's game is somehow better than the women's. It isn't. Here's why.

All sport is predicated on the configuration of the human body. Unfortunately in some sports or for some sports positions this has teetered towards allowing only those with extreme physical characteristics to play at the higher levels. My father was a very good rugby “Wing Forward” in the 1930s – top English club level. Dad was 5ft 8inches tall, fast and strong and that was ideal for that position at that time. Now “flankers”, as they are now called, are much, much bigger. Well overclip_image001 six feet and up to 6ft 5 in many cases. My Dad wouldn’t have got a look in today. Then of course Basketball is really only a possibility for the very tall boys and girls. The average height in the NBA is 6ft 6 inches (78 inches) – look at this chart and you will see that only a tiny % of the American male population is that tall.

From this chart you will also see that the median height for women is 5 inches lower than for men. Of course height is only one of the relevant characteristics in sports but a similar bell curve could be drawn for strength, weight, lung capacity or any other of the physical characteristic of the human being. Men are bigger and stronger than women and have greater endurance. There is no athletic record where women are close to men – the best woman in any sport would not be in the top few hundred best men list, measured empirically. Does this make men’s sport “better” than women’s? Of course not. But it does mean that only it is only in sports where the physical aspects are removed as an issue that women can compete with men. Show jumping is one and to some extent horse racing. But these are the rare exceptions that prove the rule.

Let’s return to the admirable Sarah Taylor. She is a very good cricketer and could probably survive and build an innings from time to time against men. But mostly she would struggle – especially against male fast bowlers. It is inconceivable that she could perform consistently at the highest level against men because the different physical characteristics of men and women mean that in the men’s game performance levels are higher (not “better”) – as they are in virtually every sport.

It would be at best patronising and at worst down right insulting to ask Sarah Taylor or any other woman to play in competitive men’s cricket. The game is different and there is no way she could play it.