The MCG and SCG will host solo WBBL games for the first time in the competition’s history as Cricket Australia seeks to elevate the women’s game in the early months of the Australian summer. The WBBL fixtures were revealed by CA on Thursday, with the final five matches of the 56-game home-and-away season set to be contested at the Adelaide Oval, MCG, and SCG from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26.
The MCG and SCG have yet to host WBBL matches since the competition became a solo event in 2019-20, with games taking place in October and November, separate from the men’s BBL, which takes place in December and January. The move to play standalone WBBL games at large venues, according to Alistair Dobson, the chairman of Big Bash Leagues, is a significant step forward for the league.
“We see the WBBL’s evolution as continuing to demonstrate that it’s the best cricket league in the world with the best players, and looking to start playing games in the biggest and best stadiums is an essential part of that,” Dobson said. “Doing it on a smaller scale, if you will, this year with three or four matches at various venues is a good way to begin building momentum as part of a longer-term journey.” What that looks like in the medium to long term remains to be seen, but it’s a self-explanatory and natural next step for us.”
There have previously been 12 WBBL matches played at the MCG, including the 2015-16 final. However, all 12 have served as warm-ups for men’s BBL games. The SCG has previously hosted nine WBBL matches as warm-ups for BBL games, but none since December 2018.
However, Australia’s two most iconic cricket venues will feature solo derbies this season, with the Melbourne Stars taking on the Melbourne Renegades at the MCG on November 25. The Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder will then meet battle at the SCG on November 26 in the second of a WBBL double-header, with the Hobart Hurricanes and Adelaide Strikers also playing earlier that day.
The MCG will be remembered for hosting the women’s T20 World Cup final in 2020 in front of a record-breaking crowd.
The MCG memorably hosted the women’s T20 World Cup final in 2020 in front of a record-breaking crowd of 86,174, but a mass of that size for the WBBL is not conceivable. The WBBL will maximize attendance at the MCG and SCG. Dobson is optimistic that there will be enough people interested in attending to encourage more WBBL games at the larger venues in the future.
“We’ll judge the success of those games in different ways,” he explained. “We wouldn’t really put a number on it in terms of attendance.” We’ll work hard with our clubs, venues, and partners to get people there, but it’s also about the experience of the players – and the fans – who are there.
“I think we’re seeing around the world right now that when great cricket is played in big famous stadiums, people want to come.” We see it in the UK [with the women’s Ashes]. We saw it in the WPL, and it makes sense for the WBBL also to give it a shot. “The players are ecstatic.”
Most of the tournament will take place at the smaller boutique grounds that have been iconic with the WBBL, such as North Sydney Oval and Melbourne Junction Oval. Thunder will play at Cricket NSW’s new high-performance facility, Cricket Central, at Sydney Olympic Park.
There will also be fewer neutral games as the WBBL transitions to a full-fledged home-and-away league following several years of festival-style weekends with many teams playing multiple games at the same facility in the same city.
“There’s been a strong message from [the players] for a number of years that reducing neutral games, playing more often and at home, and all those other things that I think are really key developments for this schedule are based on a lot of strong feedback from players who have a real sense of ownership and legacy of this competition that they feel really passionate about it and want to do anything they can to make it succeed as much as possible,” Dobson said.
After playing in the shadow of the men’s T20 World Cup in Australia last summer, the WBBL will have much more open air this season. It will occur concurrently with the men’s 50-over World Cup in India, although there will be no men’s international cricket in Australia throughout the competition.
The tournament will also remain a 56-game season – plus the finals – with no intentions to shorten the season at this time, despite the men’s BBL being cut to a 40-game season – plus the finals.
The WBBL will also hold its first-ever foreign draft this season, with the structure and date to be announced in the coming week.
Visit India cricket for more latest news