In recent years, the cricketing schedule has become extremely hectic with players having to juggle between their international and franchise commitments. International games and tours have increased and almost every year we see a new franchise league like the FairBreak Invitational, The Hundred, or WPL. Managing the workload can be tough and many players choose to opt out of their club duties to focus on their national side’s performance and recovery.
Due to this, a question has arisen. Should the duration of franchise tournaments be reduced to help manage player workload and stay relevant in the face of competition? On the eve of the WBBL, players discussed if shortening the league would help it retain its position as the number one T20 league.
The ninth edition of the WBBL comes with a greater salary cap and improved schedule with fewer neutral venues but is extremely different from what the situation was in 2015 when the tournament started. The competition is one of the best in the world but many players have withdrawn their names while some have demanded a shorter season.
England captain Heather Knight who pulled out of the tournament said, “It’s definitely something I have to think about a bit more now, (whether to sign up). It’s obviously a long tournament, the schedule is just so different to what it used to be both internationally and with all the other franchise tournaments.”
The length of the Men’s BBL was reduced from 14 rounds to 10 rounds and Knight believes that if the same is done for the WBBL it would make the league, “more attractive.”
She said, “You look at the Hundred, it’s a comp that’s condensed into three-and-a-half weeks. Same with the WPL. There’s players that have not put themselves forward for the whole comp. Danni Wyatt has pulled out. You want the best players playing really. A lot of that is around just managing your workload physically and mentally.”
Knight is not alone in her concerns with many players like Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy, Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonassen, and Georgia Wareham advocating for a shorter season. However, scheduling decisions are not easy with there being many considerations.
The Big Bash bosses had considered reducing the league to 10 rounds but the proposal was rejected by two states who wanted to protect the domestic players who hold the WBBL as, “the pinnacle of the season.” Even if there is a shorter season, authorities will have to come up with a replacement for domestic players. There are options like the introduction of red ball domestic matches or state-based T20 matches in the lead-up to the WBBL but both seem extremely unlikely.
Regarding this, spinner Jess Jonassen said, “I think you can only drop the games once that’s been established, and it’s not just a hit-and-giggle preseason comp. Ultimately, a reduction of WBBL games is going to help facilitate the international talent coming over and keep generating that revenue. But you’ve got to also remember the domestic players that don’t play international cricket. This is all that they do.”
However, there are players who believe that the length of the tournament should not be a consideration. According to Ellyse Perry, the main concern is how to regularly drive crowds into big stadiums like the MCG and SCG when fixtures are played there.
She said, “I think it’s really simplistic to just look at the length and the matches in isolation and pose that as a solution. For me, it’s probably a bit broader than that and what we’re trying to achieve is a really successful and commercially viable competition that hopefully evolves into being played in the major stadiums around the country with really big crowds on a weekly basis.
“And there’s lots of considerations in that, rather than just talking about the length of the season. It’s actually probably about working what’s relevant for us to achieve that goal. That’s what we should be aiming for.”
The WBBL is set to begin this Thursday with Sydney Sixers facing off against the Melbourne Stars.
(Quotes sourced from Perth Now)
Vaishnavi is a passionate author with an unwavering love for cricket, particularly women’s cricket. Her writing reflects her deep admiration for the sport and her dedication to promoting women’s participation in it. When she’s not following the latest cricket matches, Vaishnavi can be found engrossed in books or enjoying movies.