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WBBL as the Scorchers down the Strikers by Peter Newlinds

Photo: Courtesy Reuters

At the end of a sorry and difficult week for the men’s game, WBBL 07 reached a fittingly dramatic conclusion on Saturday night when 15,000 fans colourfully and noisily rolled into Optus Stadium in Perth to watch the Scorchers down the Strikers.

This increasingly popular competition has expanded to a full home and away roster for the eight teams involved (Covid issues pending, of course). It’s no longer a scaled-down version of the male equivalent but a full blown equal. With plenty of advantages too, not the least of which is an array of talented and unique characters to get to know as the tournament unwinds around the country.

To say the least, women’s cricket has come a long way in the last fifteen years. In the mid 2000s even the biggest of games were scantily covered by the electronic and print media. Another fifteen years back and the situation of equality in every sense would have been even worse.

In my experience that all started to change in 2009, specifically when ABC Grandstand made the then rather bold decision to cover every game of the World Cup that year on radio. As management admitted at the time it wasn’t the biggest driver of audiences but it did mark a line in the sand moment. Though it would have been hard to imagine the exponential growth of the women’s game in the twelve years since.

I remember very well calling the opening game of the 2009 tournament on ABC radio from North Sydney Oval. Australia was beaten by New Zealand, a result we never recovered from as the England team, lead by their star batter Claire Taylor, forged their way to the world title.

England went on to play New Zealand in the final. That New Zealand team featured two current superstars of WBBL07, Rachel Priest and Sophie Devine.

Looking at the Australian team in that tournament, Elyse Perry stands out as the only player still competing at the highest level. Many of her teammates have now attained exalted status in the cricket world, such as Karen Rolton, Alex Blackwell and Lisa Sthalekar, to name just a few.

Which brings me to the one of the most pleasing aspects of this rise and rise of the women’s game. The new place for female commentators, all experts in their field, in commentary boxes around the world. Until recently, this has been a closely guarded male domain.

Another game in my years at ABC Grandstand that springs to mind when I think about this was the
last over thriller on January 26, 2014. The venue was Blundstone arena in Hobart (where I plied my trade for ABC Grandstand for sixteen seasons). The high summer weather and setting were jewel perfect, as was the game itself; Elyse Perry and Erin Osborne guided us home in the tensest of last over finishes.

Working us in the commentary box that day were the recently retired Lisa Sthalekar and Isha Guha. Two women at the vanguard of the now gender equal commentary revolution.

In Around The Grounds I write of that day as a commentary ‘Dream Team’ and that it felt like women’s cricket had really arrived. Nearly eight years on I think I might have been right!

It makes you wonder where the emerging generation of WBBL stars might be in another ten or fifteen years. Names like Taylor Vlaeminck, Phoebe Litchfield, Georgia Redmayne and many others might be prominent observers and commentators on the game as well.

 

If that is the case, they’ll know who to thank.

Peter Newlinds is the author of Around The Grounds

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