Women’s cricket ready to bounce to next level
CRICKET in Australia could be forever changed after Australia's convincing T20 Women's World Cup final win over India with an expected boost in participation numbers.
Not only was the crowd of 86,184 at the MCG a record number to attend a women's standalone sporting event in Australia, but it was the largest crowd at a women's cricket game globally.
The South Australian Cricket Association says it has already seen a big rise in female participation numbers since the 2018/19 season.
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A spokesperson said the number of girls' teams in its "Junior Strikers Girls" league had more than doubled in 12 months rising from 30 to 70 teams.
The entry level cricket skills program has gone from 16 per cent girls' participation to 23 per cent girls with the season still going that could see a further rise in numbers.
This summer season has also seen an expansion of its all-girls school holiday cricket programs, while a new girls indoor cricket league will begin in April.
Spinner Molly Strano said she hoped the success of the Australian team - as well as the success of the tournament more broadly - would inspire kids across the globe to play cricket.
"Hopefully we've inspired some young kids to pick up the bat and ball, regardless of gender, boys as well as girls, and I think it will have a long-lasting impact not only on women's cricket, but women's sport in Australia as well," she said.
"Hopefully women's sport in this country can keep going from strength to strength."
Injured Ellyse Perry, who watched the final from the sidelines after tearing her hamstring playing New Zealand, said she hoped there were many opportunities to come on the back of the match.
"Certainly I hope we've been capturing more young kids' imaginations and hopefully getting them into cricket," she said.
"But I also think it's proven to people that women's sport and specifically women's cricket is entirely possible on a grand scale and that it's incredibly entertaining, great to come along to, that it's an amazing occasion and it's a group of athletes who are authentic and easy to watch and follow because you ride every emotion with them, there's a lot of genuine reactions out there on the pitch and I think people really love it.
"Hopefully (the final is) the start of lots of great big crowds at games and big occasions that people are really captivated by."
Bowler Megan Schutt said she wanted the legacy of the game to be that the momentum continues.
"We need to make sure we do good things now to pass it on to the next players who come after us," she said, adding that the record 86,000-plus crowd was the highlight of the final for her.
"I heard the crowd throughout the game, but when I saw them when they did the Mexican wave and then all held up their phones, it was really overwhelming, I had tears in my eyes," she said.
NO REST FOR THE CHAMPIONS
The triumphant Australian Women's Cricket team won't have long to celebrate their stunning 85-run T20 World Cup victory over India, with the side heading to South Africa on Sunday for a six-game series against the Proteas.
The Aussies will play three one-day internationals and three T20-internationals against the home side starting with a warm-up game in Durban on March 19, concluding on April 4.
The tour of South Africa will conclude the busiest 12-month period the Australian cricketers have played, which started with the Ashes campaign in England in June last year.
Vice-captain Rachael Haynes said despite the quick turnaround, the side would soak in its World Cup win, which included a public reception in Melbourne's Federation Square on Monday.
"We'll definitely enjoy this moment, it's such a massive build up and so much energy goes into it it's emotionally exhausting as well, but we're definitely going to take the time to enjoy this for what it is and come Sunday, when we get on the plane well obviously switch our focus, but I think there's nothing wrong with spending the next few days basking in the glory of a home World Cup victory," she said.
The Aussies will go into the series as clear favourites, particularly considering the Proteas are yet to beat the Australian women in any format of the game.
The ODIs will be played for ICC Women's Championship points - determining which teams automatically qualify for the next 50-over World Cup in early 2021 - adding extra significance to the series.
The sides played off in a rain-affected World Cup semi-final at the SCG on March 5, where Australia were five-run victors and Haynes said the Proteas would be looking for revenge.
"I'm sure they've got something to prove in that series, but likewise, we want to continue on what we started," she said.
With star allrounder Ellyse Perry out of the side as she rehabs her high-grade hamstring injury that could require surgery, bowler Megan Schutt will be looking to spearhead the attack.
She will come into the South African tour having recovered from being held wicket-less in the World Cup's opening game against India, to become the tournament's leading wicket-taker taking 13 scalps from five games.
Schutt's best performance came in Sunday's final, where she bowling her career best international figures of 4/18 from 3.1 overs, including the crucial wicket of Shafali Verma in the opening over.
Schutt said the Aussies would be able to regroup quickly for the African tour.
"It's obviously what we do for a living, so once we get there, we'll be OK, but right now I can't really think about that," she said.
Spinner Molly Strano, who came into the World Cup squad to replace injured quick Tayla Vlaeminck, could well continue her big start to 2020 by joining the South African tour, but she said she hadn't yet had confirmation from the selectors.
"It's TBC," she said.
"It's a very short turnaround for the tour, but we wouldn't have it any other way, the greatest honour is playing cricket for your country so I think everyone's happy to cut short the celebrations and put on the green and gold in South Africa."
Injured Perry is expecting big things from the team, saying their World Cup performance was the best she'd seen
"I don't think I've seen a better game of cricket from us," she said of the side's convincing smashing of India in the final.