The women’s game needs to ensure there is clear communication and a smarter approach to scheduling in the future to avoid clashes of domestic competitions such as the WBBL and the Women’s T20 Challenge, according to former Australia player and now CA board director Mel Jones.
CA hopes that the doubling up of two major women’s domestic events which will occur in November is a one-off scenario created by the huge challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, but beyond that there will need to be clear planning both domestically and internationally amid “massive concerns” that the women’s game could be left behind in the resumption of sport.
With the T20 Challenge overlapping with the WBBL it means that India players won’t be able to appear in Australia this year, just six months after they played a starring role at the T20 World Cup, and on the flip side the likes of Alyssa Healy, who has been very outspoken on the topic, will not be able to feature in Indian competition for the second year running following last year’s stand-off between CA and the BCCI.
“Who’d have thought maybe five years ago that I’d be pulling my hair out that women’s domestic competitions are clashing and we can’t get players from around the world,” Jones said. “It’s a great space to be in. In some ways it has been a bit of a rush and everyone is so excited about what they can do that sometimes the communication has been missed a little bit.
“But what it has done is open up a few more doors and say let’s be a little bit more strategically smart about the way we are running our domestic competitions so we can see a free flow of players around the world.”
“From my perspective I’m rapt in the sense the Challenge was still on and giving a pathway for young Indian players to come through. For this once off it’s not ideal in the sense it clashes with the WBBL and we’d love to see the Indian players here but moving forward we’ll have the clear windows for our players to go there and their players to come here.”
“The reality is you have the whole IPL infrastructure in Dubai. Hopefully it’s a one-year anomaly given a lot has been disrupted this year. Going forward, [it would be] fantastic to have the likes of Harmanpreet play in the WBBL.”
Nick Hockley, CA interim CEO
The natural split for the major women’s domestic events would be the WBBL in October-November, the T20 Challenge in April or May and the Hundred in England during their summer months. CA are committed to staging a full WBBL in October and November this year with the likelihood it will be in a single-state hub
“Australia should be very proud of the WBBL as being the preeminent domestic league in the world,” Nick Hockley, the Cricket Australia interim CEO said. “This year is an atypical year with everything going on. The reality is you have the whole IPL infrastructure in Dubai. Hopefully it’s a one-year anomaly given a lot has been disrupted this year. Going forward, [it would be] fantastic to have the likes of Harmanpreet play in the WBBL.”
Top-level international cricket is set to resume with England-West Indies in September followed by Australia-New Zealand a few days later. CA remains hopeful that India will still tour in mid-January for a one-day series while talks are ongoing with New Zealand Cricket for matches in the space created by the World Cup postponement.
“There is a massive concern, without a doubt,” Jones said about the impact of the pandemic. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few chats with the ICC in the last week just about that. It’s not to say people don’t have it in the forefront of their minds. The fact they postponed next year’s World Cup was a huge blow to them.
“They’re mindful of that, and they’re trying to figure out ways how we can be a little bit smarter and collectively work together to make things easier. It’s an issue across global sport but I think we’ve got enough cricket brains at the table to make sure we can at least take advantage of as many opportunities as we can the next 12 months.
“The Under-19s is something we’ve been pushing for for many years. It will be critical for us, but it might be one that unfortunately for the moment will have to take a bit of a pause to work out where it fits in but also so the nations providing those teams can send teams.”
Jones and Hockley were speaking around the release of Cricket Australia’s third Press For Progress report which documents their aspiration to become Australia’s leading sport for women and girls. On the back of the record-breaking T20 World Cup and the first standalone WBBL, Hockley said the 2019-2020 season was “undoubtedly the greatest year for the women’s elite game in Australia.”
Among key outcomes in the report were that representation on boards reached 32% – the first time it has passed 30% – and more than 1,600 all-girls cricket teams have been created in the past three years, with women and girls representing 32% of all participation for the first time. The Australia team had also previously been named the country’s most loved sports team.
However, the introduction to the report emphasised the challenges ahead: “The highs of the past year were quickly followed by significant lows as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic spread globally. This once-in-a-century event is being felt throughout our game…with all sports impacted to varying degree, we call on our peers to join Australian Cricket in publicly sharing their commitment to create better opportunities for women and girls in sport. Now is not the time to revert to ways of old.”