Having a fully professional international women’s team is an achievable goal for Cricket Ireland, according to star batter Gaby Lewis.
While the men have 16 players on central contracts and five more on ‘retainer’ deals, the women currently have seven part-time players and a dozen on ‘non-retainer’ contracts.
While the Olympics gives competitors in some of the smaller sports a chance to spring themselves into the public consciousness, Lewis says it is imperative for the cricketers to reach World Cups to propel the sport into the spotlight.
In that vein, next month, Ireland travel to Spain for the European qualifier for the 2023 T20 World Cup. With just one spot at next year’s global qualifier up for grabs, Lewis and her teammates have to be at their best from the off.
In preparation for that competition, they play a four-match series with the Netherlands in Belfast starting on Monday.
In May, Ireland played their first women’s internationals in nearly two years, with Lewis top-scoring in a 3-1 series victory over Scotland, and Ed Joyce’s side is looking to continue this form into those qualifiers.
“It’s a big few months for us,” Lewis, daughter of former Ireland all-rounder and international rugby referee Alan, told the.
“We’ve got the European qualifiers at the end of August and the 50-over qualifiers in December so it’s really exciting for us and it could change the next few years for us if we do well in those two tournaments,” she added, reflecting on the packed 2021 schedule with a lot of matches for part-time players to compete in.
“I’d love to have a few full-time contracts if not a whole team of full-time contracts. It’s like that for the men so it is achievable but obviously, you have to keep putting the performances in to show that we’re worth it but there is a bit of give a little to get a little too. Hopefully, we can keep pushing for more and more and we’ll see a few full-time contracts in the next few years and it won’t be too far away in the future.”
Lewis was one of the first six players to be awarded a contract in 2019, which came after a missed opportunity for the Ireland team the previous year.
With one of the top cricketing nations coming on a rare tour to these shores, Ireland were without a number of their top players, leading to a forgettable week.
“We played a series against New Zealand in 2018 and didn’t have six of our best players available due to work, due to school, and obviously getting the opportunity to play against such a highly-ranked team and not having your full team is not good for team morale, it’s not the best way to do it,” Lewis recalls.
“Having those contracts in place now has been brilliant for the availability for tours and also just training time.
“It obviously helps, you don’t have to get a full-time job, you can work around cricket and hopefully it’s only the start.
“Hopefully we can build on that and see maybe one or two full-time contracts in the next few years.”
- Ireland’s four-match T20I series with the Netherlands starts on Monday with every game streamed live on the Cricket Ireland Live YouTube channel.