Women can mix it with the men, insists Perry
No obstacle ... England's Sarah Taylor, left, hopes to play with the men's country team Sussex. Australia's Ellyse Perry, right, played in a Sydney grade cricket under-21 Twenty20 game in 2010. Photo: AFP
DUAL international Ellyse Perry says she is keen to test herself against men again, arguing elite female cricketers could adapt to overcome the physical disadvantages they have against male counterparts.
England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor is in talks to play second XI county cricket for Sussex, and Perry, who made history by featuring in Sydney grade cricket two summers ago, is adamant the concept should be explored in Australia, too.
''I grew up playing my cricket with the boys, so to return to that environment was wonderful and it's certainly something that I'd love to do again if the opportunity presented itself,'' said Perry, who has represented Australia in cricket and football. ''In terms of the development of all women's players, I think it's a really good thing to explore.
''The physical boundaries between men and women is something that you can't change. But having said that, it's hard to speculate how much of an impact that has … Particularly with a game like cricket - it's not like rugby league where there is actual contact between players.
''I think it's one of those things where you would actually adjust to it … it's still cricket. I think it's just more about adapting to the pace of bowling and the height of the ball.''
Taylor, 23, has an informal agreement with coaches at Sussex that she will be chosen for their second team should they require a keeper at short notice. Women cricketers have competed with and against men before - Perry played and did well in a Sydney grade cricket under-21 Twenty20 game in 2010, and has featured in men's charity matches - but never at such a high level.
Former Australian women's captain Belinda Clark said Taylor would do well if picked by the English county but had reservations about how successful the integration of sexes would be in general.
''If the player is at that standard where they are going to be challenged and productive at that level, then absolutely it's a possibility,'' said Clark, senior manager of Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence.
''But … generally speaking, there are physical differences that probably mean you're not going to be able to compete in a men's competition.''
In an interview with The Guardian, Taylor spoke of potentially breaking new ground. ''Part of me knows it would be phenomenal,'' she said. ''But there's part of me doubting myself … But I would love to do it.''
While fast bowler Perry played a Poidevin-Gray Shield match for Sydney, there are other examples of top female cricketers competing with boys in juniors. Southern Stars wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy played in Barker College's first XI before graduating to the international women's game, while Meg Lanning played for Melbourne's Carey Baptist Grammar School in the same school competition as James Pattinson and Victorian all-rounder Alex Keath.
The dominance of T20 and 50-over cricket on the women's schedule would be another roadblock to female players appearing, as Taylor hopes to, in men's state four-day teams, or in the Futures League, the feeder competition to the Sheffield Shield.
NSW chairman of selectors David Freedman said women would need to be picked on merit.
''I think we'd probably need to see them come through our club cricket structure,'' Freedman said. ''That's not to say it can't happen - there has been snippets of it happening in the past. There is no question that an elite woman could probably do it but I think it's important that you be able to see them play under men's conditions against men before we pick them in that environment.''