The Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), also known as the Weber WBBL for sponsorship reasons, stands as a game-changer in Australian women’s domestic Twenty20 cricket. In this article, we delve into the WBBL’s journey, its significance in the world of cricket, and how it paved the way for a renaissance in women’s cricket.
A Historic Transition:
The WBBL emerged as a successor to the Australian Women’s Twenty20 Cup, which was active from the 2007-08 season to the 2014-15 season. The new league’s formation brought about significant changes that have reshaped women’s cricket in Australia.
The heart of the WBBL lies in its eight city-based franchises, mirroring the structure of the men’s Big Bash League (BBL). These franchises are an amalgamation of current and former Australian national team members, young talents, and up to three overseas marquee players.
The Journey to Prominence:
From its inception, the WBBL has witnessed a surge in media coverage and a growing fan base. Initially running alongside the BBL, it moved to a fully standalone schedule during WBBL|05, emphasizing its significance as an independent and powerful cricket competition.
The WBBL has been instrumental in redefining the landscape of women’s cricket. In 2018, ESPNcricinfo recognized the inaugural season in its “25 Moments That Changed Cricket” series. It hailed the WBBL as the tournament that ignited a renaissance in the sport.
The Adelaide Strikers recently clinched the title in WBBL|08, marking their maiden championship. While the WBBL’s early years saw the dominance of the Sydney Sixers and the Sydney Thunder, who together secured four titles in the initial six seasons, this echoed the supremacy of New South Wales in the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL), the 50-over counterpart of the WBBL.
Birth of a Vision:
In 2014, the Women’s International Cricket League (WICL) was introduced, inspired by the franchise model of the Indian Premier League. Although it garnered strong support from top female players and key figures in cricket, it faced challenges when the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia did not endorse the league due to concerns about its governance.
The Australian Women’s Twenty20 Cup:
Before the WBBL, Cricket Australia organized the Australian Women’s Twenty20 Cup, which ran alongside the WNCL. It aimed to heighten the profile and professionalism of elite-level female cricket, ultimately boosting the sport’s popularity among girls and women across the country.
The Birth of WBBL:
In 2015, former Australian national team captain Belinda Clark unveiled the early planning for the WBBL. Cricket Australia saw this as an opportunity to tap into the surging popularity of women’s cricket and the success of the men’s BBL. In July 2015, the first player signings for each team were unveiled at the official WBBL launch.
A Bright Future:
The WBBL has not only enriched the cricketing landscape but has also laid the foundation for the sport’s growth among women. With strong support from players and organizations, this league stands as a beacon of hope for women and girls aspiring to make their mark in the cricketing world.
The Women’s Big Bash League has revolutionized women’s cricket in Australia, and its influence continues to transcend borders, making it a milestone in the history of the sport.
Naming Rights and Sponsorship:
The WBBL’s journey commenced with the vital support of sponsors. Sporting goods retailer Rebel stepped in as the official naming rights partner for WBBL|01, solidifying their commitment to women’s cricket. Their sponsorship extended for five seasons, ending after WBBL|06.
In anticipation of WBBL|07, a new chapter in sponsorship began as barbecue grill manufacturer Weber was unveiled as the league’s official naming rights partner. These partnerships not only provided financial support but also helped elevate the profile of the WBBL.
Apparel and Headwear:
The league’s growth also saw significant changes in apparel and headwear. Majestic Athletic served as the official team apparel supplier for the first six seasons. However, ahead of WBBL|07, sportswear giant Nike stepped in as the competition’s official apparel partner. They were tasked with designing and producing the playing, training, and supporter wear for all eight teams.
Moreover, ’47 took over as the league’s official on-field headwear supplier in WBBL|05, replacing New Era. These transitions in apparel and headwear not only enhanced the visual appeal but also brought major players into the league’s ecosystem.
Development and Tournament Structure:
The WBBL’s development has been marked by an evolving tournament structure. In its inaugural season, teams had to adapt to a unique schedule that included sporadic clusters of matches, creating a challenging environment for players. Occasionally, teams were required to meet in neutral cities, underlining the league’s commitment to expanding its reach.
One significant transition occurred when the WBBL moved away from being a curtain-raiser to the men’s Big Bash League, allowing it to establish its standalone identity. The league further embraced its growth by introducing spectator admission fees for matches, with the WBBL|04 final becoming the first match to sell out, signifying the league’s increasing popularity.
The WBBL is typically hosted at boutique venues in each state’s capital city, providing fans with an up-close and personal experience. The league also ventured into regional centers to maximize attendance, achieving records for the highest standalone attendance at these venues.
The WBBL has been at the forefront of championing equitable remuneration for female cricketers. Player salaries have seen a significant surge over the years. In its inaugural season (WBBL|01), players earned between $3,000 and $10,000, in addition to a $7,000 retainer for all female domestic cricketers participating in the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL).
Cricket Australia’s substantial investment in elite female players resulted in a notable increase in player payments, with national representatives now earning a base salary of around $80,000, exceeding six figures with match payments and tour fees. Domestic players also witnessed a significant rise in their retainers.
The commitment to player remuneration reached a significant milestone when CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) increased the total female player payments to $55.2 million, hailed as the biggest pay rise in Australian women’s sport history. This led to considerable pay rises for players in both the WNCL and WBBL, benefiting nearly a hundred women’s players.
In April 2023, CA and the ACA solidified their commitment to women’s cricket with a new five-year Memorandum of Understanding, increasing the player payment pool from $80 million to $133 million. WBBL players saw their retainers double, with the top earners receiving $133,000 per year. This new agreement ensures that female cricketers, whether in the WBBL or WNCL, are duly rewarded for their dedication to the sport.
The rise in player salaries, along with the other key components of sponsorship and development, reflects the league’s commitment to creating a sustainable and thriving future for women’s cricket in Australia. The WBBL continues to grow not only as a sporting spectacle but also as a platform that empowers women in the world of cricket.
WBBL – A Decade of Dominance: Records, Stats, and Memorable Feats
As the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) celebrated its first decade of thrilling cricket action, it left a trail of records, statistics, and unforgettable moments. Let’s delve into the numbers and performances that have etched themselves into the history of women’s T20 cricket in Australia.
Teams Win–loss records:
- Most Runs: Beth Mooney – 4,108
- Highest Individual Score: Smriti Mandhana – 114* (64) vs Melbourne Renegades, 17 November 2021
- Highest Partnership: Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry – 199* vs Melbourne Stars, 3 November 2019
- Most Sixes: Sophie Devine – 123
- Most Wickets: Jess Jonassen – 138
- Best Bowling Figures: Megan Schutt – 6/19 (3.3 overs) vs Sydney Thunder, 20 November 2022
Fielding and Miscellaneous:
- Most Catches (Fielder): Bridget Patterson – 52
- Most Dismissals (Wicket-Keeper): Alyssa Healy – 93 (52 catches, 41 stumpings)
- Most Player of the Match Awards: Sophie Devine, Beth Mooney – 23 each
- Highest Team Score: Sydney Sixers – 4/242 (20 overs) vs Melbourne Stars, 9 December 2017
- Lowest Team Score (All Out): Hobart Hurricanes – 66 (14.1 overs) vs Sydney Sixers, 25 January 2017; Brisbane Heat – 66 (16.1 overs) vs Melbourne Renegades, 23 December 2017
- Highest Successful Chase: Melbourne Renegades – 4/185 (19 overs) vs Brisbane Heat, 27 November 2019; Sydney Sixers – 5/184 (18.4 overs) vs Melbourne Stars, 22 November 2020
- Lowest Successful Defense: Sydney Thunder – 9/104 (20 overs) vs Melbourne Stars, 17 January 2016
- Biggest Winning Margin: Batting first: Perth Scorchers – 104 runs vs Melbourne Renegades, 12 November 2022; Batting second: Brisbane Heat – 68 balls remaining vs Melbourne Stars, 10 January 2019
- Longest Winning Streak: Sydney Sixers – 9 matches
- Longest Losing Streak: Hobart Hurricanes – 10 matches
- Longest Head-to-Head Winning Streak: Sydney Sixers – 11 matches vs Hobart Hurricanes
- Most Runs in a Season: Ellyse Perry (SYS) – 778 (WBBL|04)
- Most Wickets in a Season: Sarah Aley (SYS) – 28 (WBBL|02)
- Most Dismissals in a Season (Wicket-Keeper): Claire Koski (SYT) – 28 (WBBL|01)
- Most Catches in a Season (Fielder): Ellyse Perry (SYS) – 15 (WBBL|08)
- Most Player of the Match Awards in a Season: Meg Lanning (MLS) – 6 (WBBL|01); Ellyse Perry (SYS) – 6 (WBBL|04); Sophie Devine (ADS) – 6 (WBBL|05)
The WBBL has witnessed some breathtaking hat-tricks, showcasing the extraordinary talent on display. Here’s a chronological list:
- Nicole Bolton (PRS) vs Hobart Hurricanes, 19 December 2015
- Gemma Triscari (MLS) vs Sydney Thunder, 15 January 2016
- Amy Satterthwaite (HBH) vs Sydney Thunder, 16 January 2017
- Dane van Niekerk (SYS) vs Hobart Hurricanes, 17 December 2017
- Marizanne Kapp (SYS) vs Melbourne Stars, 26 October 2019
- Darcie Brown (ADS) vs Brisbane Heat, 24 October 2021
These remarkable achievements highlight the exceptional talent and fierce competition within the WBBL.
As the WBBL embarks on its next decade, these statistics and records stand as a testament to the league’s growth, the talent it has nurtured, and the thrilling moments that have captured the hearts of fans. The WBBL continues to be a beacon for women’s cricket in Australia and a stage where excellence knows no bounds.