'Australia is leading the way': CA walk the walk with WBBL
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'Australia is leading the way': CA walk the walk with WBBL

South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk has challenged international boards to meet the high bar set for the women's game by Cricket Australia after the governing body put its money where its mouth is for this season's WBBL.

Amid the global credit crunch caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CA have made good their pledge to continue growing the sport for women, digging deep into their pockets to keep the WBBL as the world's top Twenty20 league.

The WBBL, which kicks off next Sunday, will be played entirely in Sydney this season.

The WBBL, which kicks off next Sunday, will be played entirely in Sydney this season.Credit:Getty

In a summer where CA is budgeting for a $30 million biosecurity bill, it would have been easy for Jolimont to turn its back on the international stars and avoid the costs involved in flights, quarantine and accommodation, not to mention the government clearances to fly players in from overseas during a pandemic.

Instead, it has welcomed what is effectively another squad of players from abroad for the 59-game tournament. A total of 21 cricketers from England, New Zealand, South Africa and the Caribbean are due to complete their 14-day quarantine in Adelaide on Sunday.

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CA, having already hosted New Zealand, remains committed to matches against India's women's team and will work with the Indian board and health officials for clearances once the men's schedule is signed off.

A source has said that tour in late January or early February, initially a warm-up for the postponed World Cup in New Zealand, could now feature six matches instead of three in recognition of the effort and expense to get the team over.

While the Indian Premier League is the premier T20 league in the men's game, Australia's event is regarded by players as the gold standard for the women.

Featuring the stars from Australia's national team, which this year memorably defended their T20 world crown, the competition has also attracted top players from rival nations, including three international captains – England's Heather Knight, New Zealand's Sophie Devine and South African Dane van Niekerk.

Players may be paid only a fraction of the the eye boggling sums on offer for the men in the IPL, but for some the fee for just over five weeks' work represents a substantial chunk of their salary.

Aware of the global cricket economy, some boards, like South Africa's, have set up a window for their players to take part in the WBBL.

Van Niekerk said CA, with the rise of the WBBL as the "premier league in the world", was pushing other countries to start their own leagues and try and match Australia's high standards.

Dane van Niekerk attempts a reserve sweep for the Sixers last season.

Dane van Niekerk attempts a reserve sweep for the Sixers last season.Credit:Getty

"Australia is leading the way, it's good to have that because it puts pressure on other countries," van Niekerk, who along with her wife Marizanne Kapp are playing for the Sydney Sixers, said.

"Ideally, we would like every single country to push for that but we understand there are obstacles for certain countries.

"It's started the conversation and the challenge and hopefully with time, maybe not my era, there will be lots of T20 leagues. Hopefully by the end of my career we can look at what our era and the eras before us created for people after us."

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The internationals leave Adelaide on Monday bound for the tournament's hub in Sydney's Olympic Park, which CA have set up balancing players' mental wellbeing with the biosecurity measures needed.

"We are immensely proud of the WBBL and everyone who has made it the international success story that it is today," Big Bash Leagues boss Alistair Dobson said.

"CA has demonstrated its commitment by scheduling a full slate of matches, quarantining more than 20 international players and staff from around the cricketing world and staging the entire tournament in a bio-secure hub, complete with a village for the players.

"The pandemic has presented its share of challenges, but with planning, commitment and plenty of hard work, we now stand ready to deliver a fantastic tournament starting next weekend."

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