FairBreak Invitational 2022: A revolutionary idea in women’s cricket

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Tornadoes won the FairBreak Invitational 2022

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FairBreak Invitational 2022: A revolutionary idea in women’s cricket

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Nishad Bapat

05/18/2022

It is often said that talent blossoms if given an opportunity and Fairbreak Invitational 2022 provided a big opportunity for women cricketers, especially from associate nations. The tournament will be known as a revolutionary event as it can take the graph of women’s cricket onwards and upwards.

The first season of Fairbreak Invitational concluded on Sunday and Tornadoes won the inaugural edition. Of course, the winners should get credit for their hard work to earn the title but the tournament has much more significance to it than just the results. These were not just a bunch of women cricketers playing an international match or any small league but they were playing in the most diverse league in women’s cricket. Sport is always in need of a revolution and women’s cricket needed it desperately considering the scale of payments or the coverage of games they get in comparison to their counterparts. 

It was the year 2014 when Fairbeak’s patron and Australian businessman Shaun Martyn proposed the idea of independent women’s T20 league but it was rejected as a tournament regulated by a private operator. The scenario in women’s cricket also started changing as the women cricketers from full member nations were handed out professional contracts. Also, the women’s leagues in Australia and England had started and so Martyn’s idea wasn’t unique anymore.

“We spent a couple of years where the ICC would send us off to partner with a board, the board would send us back to get permission from the ICC, and that just became a bit of a revolving door. So I backed off from doing that,” Martyn had said in an interview to the Guardian. 

However, Martyn made his idea unique with a focus on players from associate nations. He had a different take on the game than what many of the fans or experts might have and believed that there is also enormous talent in the players playing for associate nations. 

“The women’s side of the game is so diverse and so globally spread, that to think that the talent is only concentrated in a few major countries is not understanding the difference between the two games at all. There’s great players in all countries,” he had said regarding the issue.

Between 2018 and 2019, he organised a series of charity matches involving a single Fairbreak XI, which was a mix of associate and full member players. Eventually, he gained backing from Cricket Hong King, Endorsement from ICC, and support from most of the full-member boards. With all these factors to his aid, a tournament that encouraged rising talents all over the world was on its way. 

It was a gutsy decision from Martyn to start a tournament in a situation where numerous privately funded men’s leagues have gone bust and some administrators still express their concern over the commercial viability of women’s cricket. The tournament could become one of the most significant developments in sport bringing out a change with regards to financial context and exposure for all. The competition featured players from almost 40 countries which included 25 Associate nations making it one of the most diverse leagues in the sport. 

The tournament is a part of a three-year deal with Cricket Hong Kong and the next two editions are planned to be held in Hong Kong. The tournament was one of the rarest as it featured numerous global superstars including the likes of Suzie Bates, Laura Wolvaardt, Hayley Matthews, Danni Wyatt, Marizanne Kapp, and Shabnim Ismail, and Sophie Ecclestone. Players from second-tier countries mixed up with veterans of the game as appealed to the audience and might inspire other leagues to encourage the global talent. 

Right from the concept of the tournament and its teams, everything has been new but what made the competition stand apart was the performance of players from associate nations. In the group stage of the tournament, players from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Japan, Ireland, and Thailand won the ‘player of the match’ award. Further, Henriette Ishimwe from Rwanda produced a peach of the delivery in the tournament bowling a fabulous inswinging yorker to Nicola Carey. 

Take the case of Sita Rana Magar, a Nepal player who played for the champions Tornadoes. She picked four wickets in the tournament but one needs to look beyond the stats to know the kind of experience she got while playing with the best. She works in Armed Police Force when she is not bowling left-arm spin. 

“It’s been nothing less than a dream come true for me. A great learning experience and a lifetime of memory playing for Team Tornadoes,” She stated. 

Anju Gurung, a left-arm seamer from Bhutan considered this as a memorable experience as her team reached the finals. Gurung contributed with three wickets in the team’s journey. There were a whole bunch of players like this who came from associate nations and the opportunity was one of the grandest for them. 

There were Argentine pacers, Brazilian all-rounders, and Malaysian trail-blazers who also got a stage to showcase their talent. The tournament handed an equal opportunity to everyone and might inspire other leagues to do so in the future. 

"It has a massive effect on these people, and we feel that. It's not a small thing. They're very, very, very good players without recognition.I hope the ICC ... now sees us as a complementary piece in the development of the game. If we're growing the strength of those countries, that's only a good thing for world cricket,” Martyn had said according to cricket.com.au.

Overall, the league can be seen as a start to a change in the context of more and more players getting an opportunity, more money into the sport and the global reach of the tournament’s broadcast can help women’s cricket thrive all over the globe. The tournament has brought attention to women’s cricket and will take it further in the next two years hopefully.

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