In what has been a strange year, women’s cricket has lit up the sporting calendar. Mary Konstantopoulos shares her reflections on the year, and WBBL06.
Sunday 8 March 2020 was one of the best days of my life.
I gathered with 86,173 other people to watch the Australian Women’s Cricket team defeat the Indian Women’s Cricket team by 85 runs to win the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup.
But that day was about so much more than cricket. It was tens of thousands of people gathering together to say ‘women’s sport matters’. It was evidence that when appropriate investment is made in women’s sport then not only will the quality of play be exceptional, but people will want to watch it and be part of it. It was a watershed moment for women’s sport, set a new benchmark and showed the world what was possible.
And then one week later, everything just stopped. Play stopped. Competitions halted. Uncertainty reigned supreme and many questioned whether the financial struggles facing sport would mean that women’s sport would be the first casualty.
In the context of what has been an uncertain, challenging and lonely year for so many of us, every single person involved in bringing together this season’s WBBL deserves to be commended. Not only did Cricket Australia commit to holding a season, but it was a complete season (albeit a week shorter in length).
And what a season it has been with so many incredible moments.
Whilst the hub was certainly challenging, not only did it give the players the chance to get to know each other better, but it gave all of us that chance too.
From Grace Harris giving herself a black eye with the ‘Golf Simulator’, to Georgia Wareham’s skills on the basketball court, to watching all the players coo over baby Grace (the daughter of Lea Tahuhu and Amy Satterthwaite who both played for the Melbourne Renegades), these moments showed Australia just how much personality our cricketers have. In the case of Satterthwaite, how incredible to have returned to elite sport just one year after giving birth.
That personality also shone through in the coverage. I watched most of the WBBL on Channel 7 this year and was thrilled to hear so many female voices including former and current players like Katey Martin, Holly Ferling and Elyse Villani. But what I loved the most was hearing the laughter of these women in the commentary box. Julia Price, Lisa Sthalekar and Mel Jones not only bring a wealth of knowledge to the coverage, but also a sense of joy which is absolutely infectious.
Then there was what we saw on the field. No surprises that our favourites like Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Sophie Devine and Rachael Haynes continued to light it up on the field, but there were also a host of other women who had breakout seasons including Grace Harris, Heather Knight and Shabnim Ismail.
In the case of Knight and Ismail who are both internationals, how important for the women’s game that Aussie fans get to see these women in action. Next time the Aussie women play South Africa, everyone will be watching Ismail to see if she can finally reach 130 kilometres per hour with her fast bowling.
But most exciting of all is the emerging talent.
What is so important about the WBBL is that it gives the next generation of Australian talent the opportunity to play regular cricket against some of the best players in the world. Now we are seeing women emerge who grew up with female role models and who have benefited from the additional pathways created by Cricket Australia.
Players like Darcie Brown who at just 17 years old is already reaching speeds of 125 kilometres an hour with her pace bowling. Or Hannah Darlington and Phoebe Litchfield who were so crucial to the Thunder’s success this year. Or Taneale Peschel who took 13 wickets for the Perth Scorchers after only just returning in time for the WBBL after suffering a serious foot injury in the WNCL earlier this year. Many of these women not only played great cricket whilst inside the hub but were also juggling their cricketing commitments with school and in some cases, Year 12 exams.
But whilst incredible progress continues to be made thanks to the ongoing investment from Cricket Australia we still have work to do.
There were still declarations of the ‘summer of cricket’ commencing just last week when the Australian Men’s Cricket team played their first ODI against India. I don’t know about anyone else, but my ‘summer of cricket’ started when the Aussie women played New Zealand in a series in September.
Then there was the peculiarity of some decisions made by Channel 7 with the broadcast. As mentioned, the commentary for the WBBL this year has been exceptional, but why was ‘The Front Bar’ televised on the main channel at the same time as the WBBL semi-final was on Seven Mate? Why was the WBBL06 Final televised on Seven Mate whilst Frozen was on the main channel?
There may be little difference between the main and secondary channel, but the secondary channel is just that; secondary. And these women deserve to be on prime time, particularly when you consider the considerable investment Channel 7 has made in women’s cricket.
But for the moment, we should celebrate what has been an exceptional WBBL season and the continued investment that Cricket Australia is making in the women’s game.
Congratulations to the Sydney Thunder who are your 2020 WBBL06 champions after a seven wicket win over the Melbourne Stars on Saturday night. Saturday also capped off what has been a remarkable season for the Melbourne Stars who competed in their first WBBL finals series and unfortunately just fell short.
The only downside of such a great weekend? It’s now one year until the next WBBL season and if you are anything like me, you are already counting down.