Cricket used to dominate Australian summers, can the women’s game put it back on top?


Gone are the days when cricket owned Australian summers.

Gone are the days when the captain of the men’s cricket team ranked second only to the Prime Minister, even if only in the minds of the adoring Australian public.

For starters, there is no longer one captain. The role is split between Test and limited-overs duties as the game is played almost year-round with international duties across the formats of T20, 50-over one-dayers and Test matches.

And that’s only half the story.

Women’s cricket is now the central focus in terms of growth both in Australia and internationally. In Cricket Australia’s most recent census, overall registrations have dropped significantly – by 24 per cent. Indoor, school and winter cricket numbers suffered the most. The only sector running against that tide is the number of female registrations, up 17.5 per cent.

Australia’s victory over India at the Women’s 2020 T20 World Cup played at the MCG saw a record crowd for women’s sport with 86,174 in attendance. The International Cricket Council reported a 131 per cent increase on the 2018 tournament for global viewing hours, up from 55.9 million to 113.5 million. India, now the political and financial powerhouse of cricket, was responsible for 76 per cent of that audience.

Meg Lanning holds a trophy abover her head while surrounded by celebrating teammates.
A record crowd of over 86,000 people watched Australia beat India in the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup Final at the MCG.(Getty Images: Ryan Pierse)

In a post-COVID sporting environment, the pressure is on for Cricket Australia to win back the grassroots players and volunteers across the board who disappeared during the pandemic. The other major challenge is addressing the sport’s cultural diversity, which hits a roadblock between community cricket and elite representation.

Younger Australians are predominantly choosing the team sports of football (soccer) and basketball over cricket. Sport Australia’s 2019 participation survey showed the top 10 sports for adults and children.



1. Recreational walking

1. Swimming

2. Gym

2. Soccer

3. Athletics

3. Gymnastics

4. Swimming

4. Dancing

5. Cycling

5. Basketball

6. Bushwalking

6. Australian Rules football

7. Yoga

7. Netball

8. Soccer

8. Tennis

9. Golf

9. Athletics

10. Tennis

10. Cricket

Australia’s demographics have shifted so significantly that there are large sections of the Australian population who adore cricket and play at a community level, but they feel shut out from elite representation and move on.

The addition of several Indian stars being included in the current season of the WBBL is helping. Sydney Thunder’s Smriti Mandhana has 5.2 million followers on Instagram, team-mate Shafali Verma has almost a quarter of a million.


Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley understands what’s required if the sport is to climb back onto the top of the sporting dais. He was the CEO of the women’s World Cup and worked overtime to include Australia’s culturally diverse population.

“Cricket enjoys such a rich history, it’s part of the fabric of our national culture and identity,” he told The Ticket.

Having elite teams that reflect the communities we live in is high on the governing body’s agenda.

“I think it’s an issue and I think it’s an opportunity,” Hockley said.

“The opportunity is for the entire cricket eco-system — and it is a complex eco-system between state bodies, clubs, associations and the national governing body and our pathways — I think our opportunity is to make sure we are truly representative of the community we serve at every single level.”

It comes down to relationships and representation in both playing ranks and administration, according to Hockley.

“It’s about making sure that we’ve got really diverse workforces, we are talking about how we can continue to build relationships.

Shafali Verma World Cup T20
Indian teenager Shafali Verma has joined the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

Indian based ESPN journalist Annesha Ghosh says Australia sets the benchmark for coverage and support of the women’s game.

Despite being an area of growth in the game’s most powerful nation, the women in India are still treated differently when it comes to scheduling, sponsorship and broadcast hours.

“There was a 364-day [match] gap between India finishing runners-up against Australia in the 2020 T20 World Cup,” Ghosh said.

“That speaks volumes about the national team, especially when their men’s counterparts go on tours and play the IPL (Indian Premier League).

“But for a team to not play for close to a year, especially having finished runners-up at the previous two major events in a window of four years, it speaks to some extent about the intent around developing the women’s game.

Dejected Indian women's cricketers wipe their eyes as they watch after Women's T20 World Cup final.
The Indian team didn’t play for close to a year after coming runners up in the T20 World Cup final.(AP: Asanka Ratnayake)

IBIS World has researched numerous reports on the state of the sports industry and more recently on gambling in sport.

Senior analyst Matthew Reeves said that at the participation level, cricket’s position has fallen but television ratings are strong at all levels of the game. Gambling figures also provide some insight.

“Over $12 billion is spent by Australians on sports gambling (per year),” Reeves said.

A live sports betting site on a mobile phone, April 24, 2020.
Cricket ranks about sixth in sports betting.(ABC News)

“If you look at all the different sports, cricket ranks about sixth, other sports like golf, American football, Aussie Rules and rugby are more popular.”

Australia’s largest wagering business, Tabcorp, has recently extended its multi-year partnership with the world’s premier basketball competition, the US-based NBA.

“The popularity of the NBA in Australia continues to grow, particularly amongst younger audiences,” Tabcorp wagering and media managing director Adam Rytenskild said.

Part of the relationship will see the TAB produce a localised version of NBABet Stream, described as a ‘betting-focussed alternate telecast’, the first outside of the USA.

Like other sports, Cricket Australia’s income is in part derived from gambling revenue. One of its commercial partners is

Steve Smith signing an autograph with bet365 signage in the background.
One of Cricket Australia’s commercial partners is Darren England)

Ironically, the health of a sport is not only gauged by those who work up a sweat playing the game, but also by the number of those who choose to sit and watch, and those who choose to gamble on the game’s outcome.

For the youngest participants, playing cricket is all about enjoyment. For those at head office, it’s all about crunching the numbers.

All things considered, Nick Hockley believes, “cricket’s in great shape”.


Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button