MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s professional women’s Twenty20 competition has been given its own scheduling window separate from the men’s ‘Big Bash’ in a landmark move hailed by the players’ union.
The fifth season of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) will start in October and culminate in the final weekend on Dec. 6-7, providing a lead-in to the women’s T20 World Cup which starts in February, Cricket Australia said.
“This is monumental for the women’s game,” Anthony Everard, Cricket Australia’s Executive General Manager Fan Engagement, said.
“Moving the entire tournament to its own standalone period is the first step towards achieving that ultimate goal of being the best women’s league in the world, giving the world’s best female cricketers from across the globe the platform to show fans what they are capable of.”
The men’s Big Bash fixtures have yet to be released but the bulk of it will be played in January, when the men’s one-day international squad is touring India.
The new arrangement will boost broadcast exposure for the women’s game, Cricket Australia said.
“This is something we’ve been building towards and last year’s final series has proved that the rebel WBBL is ready to stand on its own two feet,” Everard said.
“The volume of televised content nearly doubled last season, for the women’s cricketers.”
Players union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, said some players would have to balance study and work commitments with the new schedule.
Professional women cricketers receive the same base pay as their male counterparts in Australia for time spent on the playing field but they compete in far less matches and many are unable to support themselves by cricket alone.
“The ACA will continue to work with Cricket Australia and the states to help players adjust to this change,” ACA General Manager of Cricket Operations & Player Relations Brendan Drew said.
“Nevertheless, the players are extremely excited for the stand-alone tournament and the opportunities it will bring.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)