Cricket World Revisit: How Women's Big Bash League challenged cricket's status quo
The Women's Big Bash League began in 2015, four years after the men's version. Within five years, there's a parallel sports economy running and we have WBBL to thank for it.
As Australia beat India by 85 runs to lift the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020 trophy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the International Women's Day, the stark difference in the quality between the two sides was evident.
"This year we are hoping for some more games in the Women's T20 Challenge [Women's IPL]. That tournament is very important for our domestic cricket and we got two players from there. Hopefully, we do get more players so that they can contribute to the team," losing skipper Harmanpreet Kaur said after the loss.
While it was the 6th T20 World Cup final for Australia, India were playing their first-ever T20 World Cup final and the difference in the body language of the two teams was telling. From start to finish, it was visible that the Indian team did not have enough faith in the change room.
The Aussies players, on the other side of the spectrum, were exuding positive energy and that translated in their style of play as well. It only helped that the girls had seen five editions of the Women's Big Bash League, which is something that their Indian counterparts do not possess.
The pressure of a 87,000-strong crowd in Melbourne, the glitz and glamour and the media had been somewhat experienced by the hosts and hence, they dealt with it much better.
The reason for that: well, of course, there was a delta in the quality between the two teams but it was further magnified when it came to holding their nerves on a big day. When Harman said that the Women's IPL will be very important for us, she was also saying that she rues not having anything like the WBBL back home yet.
The Women's Big Bash League began in 2015, four years after the men's version. While the men's tournament had already provided the blueprint for it to succeed, the women's game brought its own set of selling points with it.
While many believe that the men's game had lost its innocence while trying to master the business side of it, the girls came like a breath of fresh air - bring back that sense of innocence, pristine passion and the joy of just expressing themselves uninhibitedly.
While the men's and women's game was still comparable, the latter appealed more to the purists. A broadcast deal that Cricket Australia initially signed saw them offset the production costs with Channel 10 set to show eight games live on their second channel, while they were showing the men's games on the main channel.
As it turned out, the WBBL exceeded all expectations. The league's rating were comparable to that of the men's Australian Football League, with nearly 150,000 viewers on an average. This led to Channel 10 showing an extra couple of games that weren't going to be offset by CA. Essentially, the WBBL went from paying for its broadcast to generating revenue.
Unlike the men's BBL where the focus is on local players, the WBBL genuinely features the best cricketing talent from across the world - from New Zealand's Suzie Bates to Sri Lanka's Chamari Atapattu, from India's Harmanpreet Kaur to Pakistan's Nida Dar and of course the local stars like Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy.
Following the WBBL, the Kia Super League has also hit the ground running and the Women's IPL is no more than two years away. Within five years, there's a parallel sports economy running and we have WBBL to thank for it.
©Cricket World 2020