The announcement of the expansion of the WNCL – the elite domestic 50-over competition in Australia – has been greeted with largely positive headlines… because it is a positive headline.
The WNCL – Women’s National Cricket League – has been running in more-or-less its current format since 1996-97, starting as a home and away league, with a 3-match final series.
This has slowly evolved over the years to the current setup, with 7 teams playing each other once in the league, followed by a one-off final between the top two.
One constant throughout has been New South Wales, who have never failed to reach the final, and have won the tournament 19 times. The only other teams to have won it are Victoria (twice) and South Australia (once).
As with the Women’s County Championship in England, the WNCL has for most of its history been an amateur affair; but the professionalisation of domestic cricket in Australia has now created an opportunity to expand the competition – something the top players have been demanding for a while.
However, instead of going the full distance, and expanding the WNCL (back) to a full “home and away” league, Cricket Australia have chosen the most bizarre compromise – adding just two more matches for each side, so some teams will play each other twice, and others only once.
Although there is a precedent for this in the (Men’s) BBL, where “extra” matches have been scheduled to double-up the number of highly profitable “derbies”, it is still a terrible idea, because it means two teams (ACT and Queensland this coming season) have to play perennial champions New South Wales twice, making a mockery of the balance of the tournament.
Admittedly, this is hardly the end of the world – outside of the women’s cricket bubble, few care about the WNCL, with matches typically attended by only a handful of spectators. But surely the opportunity here was to change that? Instead, Cricket Australia have bottled it and broken the tournament as a genuine sporting contest.
Cricket Australia have led the way in taking the women’s game to remarkable new heights in the past 10 years; but they’ve called this one wrong… and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so!