How the WBBL is changing women’s cricket

The rapid global growth of the Big Bash is underpinning major evolutionary changes in women’s cricket.

When the tournament’s third incarnation kicks off on Saturday with a double-header at North Sydney Oval, the brand of cricket on display will be unrecognisable to that which was being played barely five years ago.

Twenty20 cricket has forever altered the sport of cricket, and no more apparently than in the women’s game. And that drastic change has only been kicked along by the WBBL, the world’s strongest and most popular female T20 tournament.

As good as it was last summer, statistics suggest the WBBL curve of improvement is still heading in an upward direction, particularly on the batting front.

Given the competition’s infancy, only limited data is available for comparison. But one statistic sticks out well above the rest.

The first WBBL provided 111 sixes across the competition. That number spiked to 159 last season, and is expected to grow even further this time around.

“Twenty20 cricket has really just allowed girls to express themselves; it’s the type of game that you have to be brave and you have to try new things,” New Zealand and Adelaide Strikers superstar Suzie Bates said. “Players also have learnt what they can do. In 50-over cricket you play within yourself, whereas Twenty20 is all about playing all of those shots that you have and working on those shots in training.

“You know you have to score off a 100 per cent strike rate or more so in training you know you have to work on hitting different parts of the ground. In 50-over cricket you can get away with not doing that, the laps and the reverse sweeps, and having to hit it over the boundary when the fielders are out – that comes from doing it in training and then believing you can do it in the game.”

In essence, T20 cricket is unlocking the potential of the women’s game.

Batters are required to play more big shots more often, and they’re striking the boundary or clearing it entirely with an ever-increasing regularity.

Take the Women’s World Cup as another example.

Australia’s participation in the decider of that tournament has almost always been a fait accompli, but they were felled at the semi-final stage in England earlier this year thanks to a whirlwind innings by Indian and Sydney Thunder power hitter Harmanpreet Kaur.

Her unbeaten 171 off 115 balls was one of the greatest knocks the sport has ever witnessed. So much of it stemmed from a confidence harnessed from the T20 game.

No boundary at the County Ground in Derby could contain Harmanpreet during that knock, and no Australian bowler was spared.

Bowlers around the world are now being forced to rethink their craft in response to the high-powered batting they’re up against.

“When Kaur was coming at me hard I didn’t back myself to bowl my back of the hand,” Australian and Strikers quick Megan Schutt said.

“I’ve really honed in on that and made that a focus for me to be my go to. Hopefully it doesn’t but if that happens again in the BBL I’m going to be confident to bowl that, I think pace off the ball is definitely the way to go.

“You’ve got to add more strings to your bow, I try to learn a new variation each year. It’s good for me, it keeps pushing my bar higher.

“Playing on some decks that are roads that are built for batters is really challenging, it’s a good spectacle and it’s good for the game and the power that women hit with now is incredible.”

This year’s tournament produced the most explosive batting ever seen at a women’s World Cup. There were 111 sixes throughout the tournament, up from 67 in 2013 and 47 in 2009.

There were also 14 centuries scored, up from 11 four years ago and just three notched in 2009.

Hard-hitting Australian Beth Mooney is the perfect example of the WBBL’s influence on a cricketer’s development.

She was always below Alyssa Healy in the wicketkeeping pecking order, but forced her way into the Australian side through her explosive batting.

“The first edition of the WBBL is probably the only reason I play cricket for Australia now,” the Brisbane Heat run machine said.

“That really helped my confidence to play against the best players in the world, and to play against such high quality opposition and world class performers.

“The fact that kids are allowed to come in as 15, 16, 17-year-olds and they get to play against Ellyse Perry, Katherine Brunt, Stafanie Taylor, Harmanpreet Kaur, these are the best players in the world and young kids are getting exposed to that level of performing very early on. In the next five years that’s going to make a massive difference in terms of how far the game moves.

“T20 cricket’s such a good platform for women’s cricket because it showcases bowlers bowling fast, tactical decisions, strategy behind spinners bowling, strategy behind batters batting.

“We don’t hit the ball as far as the men so we really have to think about our timing and placement more so than trying to hit it out of whatever town we’re playing in. There’s a bit more thinking behind it and that really helps create a good showcase for the game.”

Spin bowling has also been forced to change in the WBBL era.

“All spinners across the competition are bowling a lot quicker now,” Melbourne Renegades tweaker Molly Strano said. “We used to have the luxury a couple of years ago to bowl a bit slower and it was just a little bit harder for the batters to hit, to try to generate the pace on the ball. Now with the batters being stronger and being able to access more areas of the ground 360, you actually have to bowl it a bit quicker and a bit flatter and try to jam the batters up.

“Over the last three years I’ve picked up seven or eight Ks just on my stock ball. I haven’t done that consciously, I think that’s just the way the game’s gone.

“Just watching more T20 cricket and being exposed to playing more T20 cricket you have to bowl a bit quicker, a bit flatter, try to jam the batters up and not let them free their arms.

“That’s the great thing about T20, it gives people the freedom to play their game and express themselves as a cricketer.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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