WBBL: Heather Knight, Marizanne Kapp, Suzie Bates among stars to enter quarantine just to be part of tournament

This weekend, 21 of the best female international cricketers are biding their time in strict lockdown in an Adelaide hotel staring at the walls and dreaming of the day they get out to play. Pacing the room’s perimeter. Making a day trip to the bathroom.

It was a long flight but a blink of an eye compared to clearing these customs.

In Sydney, commentator Mel Jones is in a hotel doing the same. And out at Olympic Park in Sydney’s west the two Victorian sides are similarly ensconced, all anticipating next weekend’s start of the Women’s Big Bash League by which time they will be joined by the six other teams.

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Psychologists and support staff are on hand.

“Part of what we’re trying to set up is … an experience that is positive and not the hard bubble that other competitions have gone through,” Big Bash Leagues chief Alistair Dobson said.

“There is an element of freedom within the village. We’re creating some really cool environments … there’s activities players can take part in.”

Dobson acknowledges the sacrifice the players are making, particularly those who flew in.

“It’s an enormous sacrifice and won’t go unacknowledged around the game,” Dobson said.

Lisa Sthalekar and Michael Slater are cutting short their IPL gigs in the UAE to join the commentary teams. Both broadcasters are on hand. The IPL is massive, but the WBBL holds a special place in the heart, especially for people like Sthalekar.

England skipper Heather Knight is back for another shot at WBBL glory.Source:AAP

It’s a big deal. It has its own real estate and a compelling gravity.

People go to great lengths to be part of what is the best women’s T20 tournament.

England skipper Heather Knight is one of the 21 who chose to fly to Australia, others have come from South Africa, New Zealand, and the West Indies including stars like Suzie Bates, Marizanne Kapp, Amelia Kerr, Sophie Devine, Stefanie Taylor and Tammy Beaumont.

Broadcasters are putting a shoulder to the wheel, committing commentators, crews and airtime. Cricket Australia has Melbourne staff in the Sydney hotel quarantine.

Things got awkward a few months back when the BCCI decided to put the female spin-off of the IPL on at the same time as the WBBL. Nobody saw that coming and few liked what they saw.

It’s disappointing because the women, historically deprived of opportunity to play cricket at the top level as often as they like, would dearly like to play both. Alyssa Healy, one always confident of speaking her mind, made clear her anger at the decision by India to force women to decide which tournament to play.

Alyssa Healy wasn’t happy with the clash of tournaments.Source:News Corp Australia

This is no face painting or flag-waving exercise here, but the WBBL laps what is known as the Women’s T20 Challenge. It’s miles ahead of what is basically an exhibition event held in the breaks during the IPL matches.

The wealthiest cricketing nation on the Earth grants three women’s teams two games each in a round-robin tournament with a final at its conclusion. All played in the middle of the IPL, a tournament which is said to generate one third of the revenue in cricket. Just seven games of cricket compared with the WBBL which has the same number of games (59) as the men and stand-alone billing.

India’s sideshow is to cricket what the ladies lounge was to the Australian pub, maybe not even that. A lean-to at the back of the house. A trailer behind the luxury bus.

If you can put it on for the men you can put it on for the women.

This is an exercise in acknowledging Australian cricket’s clear commitment to the women’s game. In tough times commitment is challenged, but the WBBL is spending a fortune to organise flights, quarantines, accommodation, government clearances and a billion other bureaucratic hurdles big, small, important and irritating to keep this show on the road.

And why wouldn’t they?

The older, wiser heads on the women’s scene were quick to warn in the wake of the Women’s World Cup that the momentum it generated would amount to nothing if the game rested on its laurels.

The Aussies began the summer of cricket in fine style by beating the Kiwis.Source:Getty Images

The Australian women’s team kicked off the 2020-21 international summer with a series against New Zealand. Broad­casters were pleased with the ratings and expanded their coverage of this season.

This week Fox Cricket said it would broadcast 36 WBBL games, which is 13 more than last season. Seven has committed to increase its coverage to 24 games and Kayo will stream every match.

All up there is nearly a 60 per cent increase in matches broadcast but it’s no act of political correctness, more a reflection of growing interest.

The WBBL runs from October 25 to November 29.

Originally published asWhy players sacrifice plenty to be part of the real deal

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