England pace bowler Anya Shrubsole hopes this summer’s inaugural Women’s Cricket Super League can inspire the next generation of female cricketers.
The six hosts for the new Twenty20 competition, to run in July and August, were announced earlier this month.
“Hopefully it can strengthen the domestic game and produce players for England,” Shrubsole told BBC Sport.
“The Women’s Big Bash League in Australia has been a massive success, with big crowds and good coverage.”
The WCSL will be a T20-only event in 2016, but will encompass the 50-over format as well from 2017.
England Wales Cricket Board (ECB) head of women’s cricket Clare Connor has stressed how the league was created to improve both “performance and participation” in the women’s game.
But there remains the hope that the WCSL can bridge the gap between the women’s county game – which remains amateur, albeit with the participation of England’s centrally contracted players when available – and international cricket.
“There’s been a bigger gap than we would have liked,” explained Shrubsole.
Connor told the ECB’s website: “In time, we envisage this becoming a semi-professional playing opportunity for women.”
Lessons from the WBBL
Former Australia batter Mel Jones, who has been commentating on the men’s and women’s Big Bash Leagues, feels that although the WCSL has the “exciting” prospect of starting from scratch with six entirely new sides, the WBBL has benefited greatly from having its eight franchises aligned with the men’s teams.
“They’ve got a blank canvas, but they can’t piggyback on the success and the resources of the men’s teams like the Big Bash has done,” Jones told BBC World Service’s Stumped programme.
“It’ll be very challenging to get something up and running that is not only a success, but a success straight away like the WBBL has been. It might take a little longer to get a little bit of traction.
“But I still think it’s important that the ECB and even the county men’s structures get right behind it. That’s probably going to be the biggest challenge, because there’s no association with a county side other than Surrey and Yorkshire.”
Surrey and Yorkshire will both have stand-alone WCSL sides – although five other first-class counties are involved as partners of host sides.
So who will play for which team?
The 19 contracted England players will be allocated to the six WCSL sides between now and Easter.
While endeavouring to make sure the teams – who are set to include some top overseas players – are balanced, Connor told the ECB’s website: “We will also aim to try to maintain local relationships and allegiances wherever possible.
“It is foreseeable for example that Katherine Brunt, Danielle Hazell and Lauren Winfield will play for the Yorkshire team, while Kate Cross and Natalie Sciver will play for Lancashire and Surrey respectively.”
So does this mean Shrubsole, who plays for Somerset in the Women’s County Championship, will line up for the South West side?
“Obviously I’d love to play for the South West – I’m from Bath and that’s where I’ve played my cricket,” she said.
But for others – such as batter Lydia Greenway, who plays alongside skipper Charlotte Edwards for both Kent and England – there will be the novelty of playing for a new side.
“It’s going to be strange,” left-hander Greenway told BBC Sport.
“But over time, everyone will have new loyalties. And there’s lots of things the league can achieve.”
And as with the WBBL, media exposure will be key to its success.
“If it can get on the television, hopefully it can bring more young girls to the game and get them to try out cricket,” added Greenway.
“That’s been the biggest change since I’ve played for England, the fact that it’s now a professional career option.”
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