The WBBL emerged from humble beginnings — tucked into the background of Australia’s 2015/16 home summer, only ten matches were broadcast on free-to-air television.
Although the BBL was a proven success after four captivating seasons, Cricket Australia waited until 2015 to unveil a women’s equivalent.
A handful of international players travelled Down Under for the inaugural tournament, where many of the fixtures served as curtain-raisers or sideshows for the men’s games.
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Four years later, the WBBL has a distinguishable identity and its own spot in the sporting calendar. Fox Sports established a dedicated weekly talk show, and every match was streamed live online, with 23 games broadcast on free-to-air channels.
This growth can be attributed to many factors, comprehensive media coverage, better scheduling and professional contracts to name a few. However, a quick comparison between statistics from WBBL01 and WBBL05 highlights one critical distinction.
Put simply; there are more runs, bigger sixes and a more exciting brand of short-format cricket.
Both tournaments featured 59 matches, only four of which had a match aggregate of over 300 runs in WBBL01. Incredibly, this season featured 21 games with over 300 runs.
There were 12 team totals of 150+ in WBBL01 — this year, there were 43.
Only five women managed a score of 80+ during the inaugural tournament, Brisbane Heat’s Grace Harris the lone centurion. Fourteen players achieved the feat in WBBL05.
The speed at which players are acquiring runs has significantly increased as well. In WBBL01, 17 players finished the tournament with a strike rate of over 110 (French Open Champion Ash Barty narrowly missed out with 109.67). In WBBL05, 40 players did so.
We’ve witnessed a higher number of sixes this year as well. While the boundary was cleared 110 times in WBBL01, there were 196 maximums this year.
The women’s game has been genuinely enthralling for viewers this season, the more dynamic gameplay turning heads and attracting a wider fanbase. More Australians switched on the WBBL cricket than the men’s A-League this weekend.
Women’s cricket no longer hides in the fine print of the sport — the names Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy are well-known within the Australian community. They’re now role models for the next generation of cricket stars.
The last two WBBL Finals were played in front of sellout crowds in Sydney and Brisbane, which begs the question of why the competition’s most prominent fixture isn’t at a bigger venue.
The first WBBL Final was played at the MCG, with a maximum attendance of 100,000. Sunday’s final took place at Allan Border Field, which holds 2,500 spectators.
Cricket fans were shooed away from Drummoyne Oval’s front gates before last year’s sold-out final, young kids dejectedly returning home or peering over the fencing from the side streets.
Cricket historian Gideon Haigh explained why many “traditional” cricket viewers are switching over to the WBBL.
“Traditional cricket fans that I know who won’t watch the BBL, will watch the Women’s BBL, because they feel the players are playing for the right reasons,” Haigh said to Cricinfo.
“They’re excited and innocent and jubilant and in love with cricket.”
Perhaps this is a reason the average attendance for BBL games dropped last season, while the women’s game continues to thrive.