Women’s cricket: Why the game needs to do more around clothing & equipment

England and Southern Vipers all-rounder Georgia Elwiss says that having the right size kit for women will boost confidence and performance

IT is a complaint often heard by former England cricketer Lydia Greenway.

That’s because, despite women’s cricket growing at a rapid rate, there remain issues around sourcing clothing and equipment for those playing the game – particularly at the level below international and franchise cricket.

A quick search for women’s cricket kit online returns scant results.

So is cricket really a game for everyone when girls and women must buy kit that isn’t fit for them?

‘My first England shirt could have been classed as a dress’

England’s Georgia Elwiss recalls the first time she tried on her international playing kit.

“I could put my first playing shirt on, and it would legitimately be a dress. That was a small men’s, and it was huge,” said 31-year-old Elwiss, who made her England debut in 2011.

Players “have to literally sift through everything before they get to maybe one offering of women’s clothing”, said Greenway, who pointed out that some companies label their men’s kit as unisex in an attempt to get around the issue.

Ultimately, women’s differing body shapes mean men’s kit cannot be a substitute at any level regardless of size.

“Think about women with bigger hips. You’d have to go into a medium or large men’s and then they just fall off you in other areas,” said Elwiss.

And while the recently-completed Hundred competition, which was run by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), provided women’s-sized kit, this issue persists in the England set-up due to the use of one-sized caps.

“The girls are having to shrink them in the washing machine so they fit their heads,” said Elwiss.

“They’ve obviously not thought that we’ve got ponytails and smaller heads.

“How are we still doing that in 2022?”

The ECB was asked for comment but did not respond.

How does it impact pitch performance?

Even when women’s kit is provided, often there is an insufficient number of certain sizes, forcing players to wear the wrong size anyway.

“Fundamentally the biggest issue [with wearing men’s kit] is that you can’t perform,” said Elwiss.

For example, players might be worried about their trousers dragging along the floor when running between the wickets or their shirt coming up when bowling.

This problem is not just limited to clothing.

“Starting with the cricket bat, the majority being offered [to girls and women] are on the heavy side,” explained Greenway, who is a double World Cup and five-time Ashes winner.

“If you’ve got pads which are too heavy you could get run out because you can’t run quickly enough.

“If you’ve got overhanging straps on the outside of your pads, the ball could clip the strap and the bowlers could appeal thinking it is your bat.

“When you buy men’s cricket spikes (shoes), they are so wide that your foot is going to wobble around, so you’re going to get an injury at some point or another.

“I know they might all seem like really small things, but they can have a direct impact on a cricketer’s performance on the pitch.”

How does it affect players’ mentality?

“When you don’t feel good in what you’re wearing, automatically you’re starting on the back foot,” said Greenway, who is trying to remedy the issue through a female-dedicated cricket store.

“Imagine being like ‘oh I’m in a large man’s’,” said Elwiss. “That gives you all sorts of psychological issues about your body image.

“You wouldn’t go out of the house wearing clothing that doesn’t fit you and feel good about yourself for the whole day, would you?

“You want to get more women and girls into the sport. If you can’t get kit that fits you, why would you want to carry on and play?”

Both Elwiss and Greenway associate a massive boost to confidence and performance when wearing the correct kit.

“[Ex-England batter and wicketkeeper] Sarah Taylor used to say, if you look good, you feel good, you play good,” said Greenway.

“By offering women’s specific clothing or equipment suddenly the game is saying, this is for you. As a woman we do cater for you.”

It is a vital step towards achieving gender equality at all standards of cricket.

“It shows that we are valued as much as the male team by the organisation and the kit manufacturer. They are thinking about our needs as well and how it feels to play,” said Elwiss, a World Cup winner in 2017.

“You want cricket to be a game for everybody. If you can’t get clothing that fits half of the population, I think you’re really missing a trick.”