A women's Big Bash League is a step closer to reality as Cricket Australia aims to launch the new Twenty20 tournament the summer after next.
The commitment from CA directors at last week's board meeting is another step towards professionalism for the women's game in Australia, which has been given fresh impetus by the success of the national team, the Southern Stars, which recently won its third consecutive World Twenty20 title.
How many teams will compete in the women's BBL is yet to be announced. Eight might be a stretch given the extent to which NSW and Victoria have dominated the domestic competitions but there would presumably be scope for the best internationals - the likes of English wicketkeeper-batter Sarah Taylor and West Indies power hitter Deandra Dottin - to line up alongside local stars such as Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry, and for local players to move interstate as happens in the city-based men's league.
''Directors determined that management should progress planning for a women’s T20 Big Bash League with a view to launching in the 2015-16 season,'' a CA spokesman said. ''It is seen as a key plank in CA’s efforts to further professionalise the women’s game.
''Directors felt that in order to ensure a high-quality launch, the 2014-15 season would not be appropriate due to the crowded international and domestic season that includes the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Belinda Clark, the legendary former Australian captain and Hall of Fame member who runs the National Cricket Centre, believes a women's BBL will capitalise on the gains the women's game has made in recent years.
''There's been a lot of work done in the last five years to get more international T20s on television, and the ratings of those - whether they've been matches we've had in Australia, or international matches back in Australia - have been getting stronger and stronger,'' Clark said on Cricket Australia's website.
''That's given us great confidence that if we can get this right, we'll be providing a really good opportunity for our players, but also for the public to see women's cricket at this level more often.
''The men's game has advanced and evolved at the same pace as the women's game [recently] so I think the difference is that people are noticing the women's game more now than before - but the rate of change in the sport in general is amazing, and the T20 format is a great opportunity for us to leverage that and get more girls playing.''
Clark added that a mix of double-headers with men's matches and standalone fixtures could be expected, and that a women's BBL could be a powerful motivator for young women.
''One of the main drivers is that young girls understand that there is a pathway for them,'' Clark said. ''For those girls who want to play cricket, this is a viable option for them to aim to, and for those who want to watch cricket, they'll have a choice of watching good competitions in both males' and females' [leagues].''
The story Women's Big Bash League planned for 2015-16 season first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.