The Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), much like the BBL, is the premier Twenty20 tournament in Australian professional cricket, but the inaugural season, which started on 4th December, is for women. Women’s cricket has definitely seen a rise in exposure in recent years, and the Women’s Big Bash League will be the highest point so far. The tournament, which is running alongside that of the men’s, has big plans and it’s hoped the new female platform will change the sport in a big way.
What is the WBBL?
The tournament is something BBL fans are very used to. The teams are the same, the stadiums are the same, the only difference will be the names on the team sheets. The Sydney Sixers are the favourites in the tournament, at the moment, with Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars hot on their heels.
After four years of continued growth for the men’s tournament, the women are looking to get into the slipstream and follow the success trail. 59 games are mirroring the men’s tournament and finish on the same finals day, the 24th January. Eight games are being televised for viewers and attendance in the stadium is free for all those who attend the men’s game after.
The Big Bash League are not hoping for big viewing figures, or bums on seats in the first season, but instead hope to inspire a new generation of girls to play. They are looking to capitalise on the 19 years of professional women’s cricket in Australia that has gone before it, and the raising of the game’s profile with players such as Meg Lanning and Sarah Taylor.
Mike McKenna, of the BBL, has set out his goal clearly: “We want young girls to know that they too can aspire to represent their favourite Big Bash team.”
Who’s Who of the Women’s Game?
The tournament has attracted all the stellar signings that the men’s version boasts. Sarah Taylor, the exciting talent from Sussex, will represent Adelaide Strikers and comes up against fellow England internationals Charlotte Edwards and Katherine Brunt of the Perth Scorchers.
Meg Lanning is looking to certify her place as the best player in the game for the Melbourne Stars. Her participation is hoped to enhance the reach of the tournament and improve the image of the women’s game. Former pros have come out of retirement too, as the opportunity was too good to turn down for some ‘oldies’. Australia legends Lisa Sthalekar and Shelley Nitschke will pad up once again to join in and hopefully bring more attention to the event.
Will The Appeal Catch On?
The source of the appeal will come from the games themselves. Twenty20 cricket has never failed to excite fans, as all elements of the game are forced into two hours. The format has changed the face of cricket and despite the protestations of old wigs it looks like it is here to stay. The game is popular with families and has seen a rising viewership of women because of that. BBL claim that 25% of all participants in Australian cricket are female and it is the fastest growing area of the sport.
The games will bring just as much intrigue, rivalry and competition as the men’s, and will it be given the same exposure to the fans. Eight televised games and free tickets will be offered, but it will be interesting how much the BBL will be willing to expand it to make it a fully commercial success.
The girls will no doubt let the wickets do the talking and let the future take care of itself. Watch this space as we may soon see women’s cricket played with the same attention as tennis players.