Last week, the announcement of full-time domestic contracts to 41 female players as part of the ECB’s new regional set-up came as a welcome move for women’s cricket in England. With this, the total number of professional women’s cricketers in England and Wales moves up to 58.
The captain of England women’s cricket team Heather Knight believes that this move will certainly give impetus to women’s cricket in the country, just like the Big Bash League has done in Australia since its inception six years back. The WBBL has contracts with domestic professional players for the past four years and enjoys free TV coverage. An average audience of 428,801 watched the final of the sixth edition of WBBL that was played between Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Stars. Knight was a part of the winning Thunder team.
Knight along with 16 other England players under central contract is a part of the 58 professional female cricketers. The skipper talking to Molly McElwee for The Telegraph says, “The girls playing in the Kia Super League, which ended last year, have played for a month and then it’s not professional athletes apart from that, they go back to their normal jobs. Adding new contracts in England is going to make such a big difference. It’s not the whole team, but I think the ECB did very well to pay five or six players per team as professionals. I spoke to some of the girls at Western Storm, and they are really excited to just focus on cricket and see where that leads them.”
There is no doubt that women’s cricket has had a roller coaster ride this year. From the highs of Women’s World T20 that was played in Australia in February-March in which a record 86,174 people graced the final at the iconic MCG to the lows of no cricket being played for over six months due to COVID-19 induced lockdown, the women’s cricket fortunes have been topsy turvy. The recently concluded Women’s T20 Challenge (a mini version of Women’s IPL) held in UAE too enjoyed huge success. The matches were televised and ran parallel to the playoffs of Men’s IPL. As a result, the popularity of the Women’s IPL grew further, highlighting the strong appetite for women’s cricket around the globe.
Owing to the popularity, several Indian fans tried their luck with placing bets on their favorite player and team. The Indian online gambling community seems to be continuously expanding as-well, according to BestCasinoIndia who specializes in the Indian casino market.
A lot of credit also needs to be given to the ECB, which played a pivotal role in bringing back cricket worldwide, starting from England itself. Though the much-awaited competition of the year, ‘The Hundred’ was canceled, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy provided some respite to the players and the fans. Also, the fact that the Board was able to convince the West Indies helped its cause.
The recently concluded Women’s Big Bash League was a mega success in Syndey. With all the 59 games played with utmost protection and fans allowed to visit the stadiums, it further boosted the overall cricket experience.
It would be interesting to see what the future holds for women’s cricket.