WBBL’s elite level product pays off in numbers

first_imgHawkins agrees, but is aware of the challenges that lay ahead with bringing the competition forward, out of the school holidays and summer break.“In Sydney we know that people don’t think really about cricket until the Test rolls around, she said. “So there’s going to be some behavioural change that we’re going to need to drive. But we’ve built some really good will around the WBBL that I think people will naturally come with us. It’s a really exciting opportunity for us to see how it builds over the next five years and what it’s going to become. We want it to be the kickstarter of the summer of cricket in this country and it’s the perfect vehicle to do it with.”It’s likely to be an uphill battle, but no doubt one this elite group of athletes is ready for. The opportunity to flourish away from the dramas of the men’s game is integral to the growth of the competition and women’s sport more broadly. … we have a small favour to ask. 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This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. features Share via Email But it’s not just the atmosphere that’s turning the heads of the Australian public – the players have been in fine form as well. Sixers captain Ellyse Perry last weekend became the first Big Bash player (male or female) to reach 2,000 runs. Her achievement is incredible considering the men’s competition began four seasons before the women’s and her runs have come from only 58 innings. This season has also been the all-rounder’s best with the ball, taking nine wickets so far, four more than she did in the 2017-18 season.And while Perry’s form has been attracting the most media attention, there has been no shortage of excellence throughout the competition. Perry’s teammate Alyssa Healy, as well as the Adelaide Strikers pair of Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates, have also been piling on the runs. The Perth Scorchers’ Heather Graham has taken 22 wickets across her 14 games this season, while three wicketkeepers – Healy, the Hobart Hurricanes’ Georgia Redmayne and the Brisbane Heat’s Beth Mooney all sit at 15 dismissals.With the competition pumping out both excellence and nostalgic summer picnics in equal measures, the introduction of the standalone season looks like it will be just what is needed to boost the WBBL to new heights. 2018: women’s sport leads the way in a landmark year It has been a season to remember for the Women’s Big Bash League as the competition heads into its fourth finals series this weekend. With the state of men’s cricket in disarray and the BBL’s longer format leading to a slight downturn in crowd numbers and television ratings, the WBBL has taken the opportunity and run with it.TV ratings have been encouraging – a number of matches over Christmas have drawn viewer numbers of close to 300,000. Even matches shown only on pay television have drawn steady numbers of 50,000 per game. With the competition moving to a standalone format to be played from October to early December this year, these are promising signs for the future.This season has also marked the start of the two NSW teams – the Sixers and Thunder – charging entry fees at suburban grounds for WBBL matches. It was a fraught decision and the new direction taken could have gone either way, but Sixers general manager, Jodie Hawkins is certain it was the right one for her team. Since you’re here… Share on Twitter Read more Reuse this content Support The Guardian Australia sport Facebook Share on Facebook Share on WhatsApp Women’s Big Bash League Twitter Cricket Women’s cricket Share on Messenger Read more “We thought it was time for to charge for an elite level product,” she said. “There has been great interest in it as a free-of-charge product, but people expect to pay for quality entertainment and we felt that it was time that the WBBL received that recognition.”Most pleasingly for Hawkins has been the reaction of the public. “We’ve had zero negative feedback on charging for tickets,” she said. “The feedback we’ve received has all been really positive and people have shown that by their attendance. We get 1,000 most days and 3,700 for the derby at North Sydney. We choose grounds that have great wickets to play on, which is obviously really important for the game, but that are also great from a fan engagement point of view.”That engagement and creating the matchday experience is where the WBBL has really been able to set itself apart from its male counterpart. While casual fans may be driven to the excitement, pyrotechnics and loud music of a BBL match, many cricket fans prefer a more mellow vibe and the WBBL offers that. With its summer afternoon matches in suburban grounds full of picnic blankets on lush green hills, kids starting up their own mini-matches around the perimeter and old-fashioned canteens serving sausage sandwiches, it’s a far cry from the modern sporting experience. It’s a perfectly idealised version of cricket watching that older generations are delighting in introducing their children and grandchildren to. Topics Share on LinkedIn Pinterest Share on Pinterest Ellyse Perry continues blistering WBBL form to fire Sixers to victory Ellyse Perry of the Sydney Sixers bowls during the Women’s Big Bash League match against the Melbourne Stars at the MCG in Melbourne. Photograph: George Salpigtidis/AAPlast_img

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