Commuters on the bus route no.19 in London would have recently seen Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry travel with them to promote the 2017-18 Women’s Ashes series. Scheduled in Australia later this year, the multi-format series will feature the first-ever Women’s Day-Night Test match at the North Sydney Oval.
The iconic moment is yet another step in the right direction in the progress of women’s cricket. Slowly but steadily, all Test-playing nations have introduced central contracts. Australia’s WBBL, now two seasons old, and England’s Women’s Cricket Super League have been massive hits, and the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 in India gave a glimpse of the potential that remains to be tapped.
Things have been moving rapidly in women’s cricket since the International Cricket Council took over the International Women’s Cricket Council in 2005. Two ICC Women’s World Cups have been hosted -- in Australia in 2009, and in India in 2013 -- and both events have provided much-needed exposure to the women’s game. The 2013 event was broadcast in as many as 144 territories across 28 broadcast channels, providing coverage of 1529 hours. The viewership of the event in India alone went up from 3 million in 2009 to 13 million four years later in 2013.
New benchmarks are expected to be set when the 11th edition of the ICC Women’s World Cup gets underway across four venues in England from June 24 this year. India Women, South Africa Women, Sri Lanka Women and Pakistan Women were the four teams to qualify through the Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 held in Colombo. They will join Australia Women, the defending champions, England Women, New Zealand Women and West Indies Women to complete the line-up.
Bristol, Derby, Taunton and Leicester will host the league games, with each team playing against the other once. The two semifinals will be staged in Bristol and Derby before Lord’s hosts the final on July 26. Already 9,000 tickets have been sold for the mega final. This edition of the tournament is unique because of the pathway.
The top eight countries played three matches against each other in the ICC Women’s Championship, with the top four earning automatic qualification. Held from 2014 onwards, the Championship produced some memorable moments. Meg Lanning topped the batting charts with 1,232 runs in 21 matches, while Ellyse Perry followed her on the second spot with 985 runs. Jess Jonassen was the best bowler with 31 wickets. The trio played a big role in Australia winning 18 matches to top the table.
The bottom four teams – India, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – joined Bangladesh, Ireland, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Papua New Guinea to play the Qualifiers in Colombo.
It was an exciting tournament, with the final producing an epic clash between India and South Africa. Chasing 245, India rode on Harmanpreet Kaur, the stand-in captain who struck eight runs off the last two balls, to script a thrilling one-wicket win.
Apart from India, South Africa, which had in its ranks Sunne Luus – the player of the series -- Sri Lanka and Pakistan, other teams too impressed. Playing its first 50-over competition, Thailand batted with a lot of guts and displayed athleticism on the field. Ireland had in its ranks Kim Garth, who won the WBBL with Sydney Sixers Women. Scotland displayed its flair across all three departments, and Papua New Guinea built a reputation for itself through good hitters in its batting line-up. Bangladesh which, along with Ireland, retained One-Day International status, and Zimbabwe also left a mark in different stages of the tournament.
It was for the first time that an ICC Women’s tournament was live streamed with a nine-camera setup, and it was a huge success. The event attracted 1.75 million views whilst clips and highlights from the event garnered a further 17.8 million views on ICC’s digital and social media channels. Around 30,000 people were tuned in when Kaur, who injured her right wrist while playing for Sydney Thunder Women, make an unbeaten run-a-ball 41 in India’s successful chase after Mona Meshram and Deepti Sharma had put on a second-wicket stand of 124 runs.
The Women’s Big Bash League has been a pioneer in many ways, bringing in new audiences to the game through live streams and double-headers. The players have benefitted immensely from the multi-cultural experience too. West Indies Women, winners of the ICC Women’s World T20 2016, had most of its key players in the franchisees’ roster in 2015-16. Players from non-traditional countries have also gained exposure through the ICC’s rookie development programme in collaboration with Cricket Australia.
The first recorded Women’s cricket match was held on July 26, 1745 between Eleven Maids of Bramley and Eleven maids of Hambledon. Since then, the sport has only grown. The ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 will be another glorious chapter in this wonderful journey.