Overs 1.4 - The growth of Australian Women's game
Who is the best performing Australian national team currently?
Kangaroos?! Umm ... no!
Wait! If it is not the Kangaroos, then it must be the Wallabies.
Australian men's cricket team?
**Drum roll please**
It is the Australian women's cricket outfit. The previously named Southern Stars are the world's premier team in both the one-day internationals and the T20 format. They also have five players in Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Megan Schutt, Beth Mooney and Jess Jonassen making the top five across different formats in the official International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings. Furthermore, their consistent performances and excellent brand of cricket have made them a very attractive proposition for the Australian public.
The growth of the women's game in Australia has reached new heights and the popularity of women's cricket has gained incredible momentum. Recent research by sponsors Commonwealth Bank state that the interest in women's sport is about 47 per cent higher than last year. The astonishing aspect is that six in every ten participants at the grassroots level are girls. Cricket Australia who are normally in the headlines for the wrong reasons, deserve a lot more plaudits for their part in this development. The women's game has become more professional with larger remuneration at the elite level and facilitation and provision of coaching allowing cricketers to commit to having a full-time career playing cricket.
A study from Deakin University in 2014 (1) revealed that a holistic approach to women's cricket has made an enormous difference. The Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) is central to this change with their continual push for professionalism and their relentless negotiations to get educational grants for life after cricket being universally appreciated. The cultural shift in women’s cricket has been aided through the increased exposure via the media providing the women with lucrative contracts, sponsorship deals and commercial arrangements. Even though there still is a long way to achieve parity in terms of equality, the foundations of the process are well-placed.
The triumph of the women's brand has allowed Cricket Australia to introduce a standalone Big Bash League to give further credence for the outstanding growth of the women's game. The standalone tournament will start in 2019 and in the process moving away from the shadows of the men's tournament. Earlier this year before the final of the 2018 tournament, both Perry and Villani (captains of the Sixers and Scorchers respectively) has supported the idea of having their own tournament to showcase the game and to create their own product.
With the World T20 tournament about to commence in less than a fortnight in the Caribbean, it is well overdue that we get behind a team that has limitless talent, plays with intensity and dignity and is a glowing endorsement to sports.
Reference: C Hickey, et al. (2016). The professionalisation of Australian women’s cricket - New times and New opportunities. Published by Deakin University, Geelong Victoria.
Thumbnail image credit: By Robert Drummond (IMG_2776) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons