WBBL kicks back into gear with weekend of double-headers

The most internationally diverse Women's Big Bash tournament yet was launched in a multi-coloured dust cloud at Carriageworks on Thursday ahead of a jam-packed season opening weekend at North Sydney Oval.

Twenty-three overseas players from six countries will contest the WBBL, including World Cup sensation Chamari Atapattu who becomes the first Sri Lankan to feature in the world's premier T20 tournament.

Players from all eight franchises were on hand in Sydney, smashing baubles of colourful dust against a wall to reveal the WBBL logo, and ushering in another frenetic summer of T20 cricket showcasing the world's biggest stars.

New Zealand has seven players in the WBBL while South Africa has five in action, after the Brisbane Heat swooped to land teenage batting prodigy Laura Wolvaardt to replace the injured Grace Harris.

World Cup winners England (5), West Indies (3) and India (2) are also represented. England would've had more, but for injury to Hobart stalwart Heather Knight and the retirement of Charlotte Edwards.

"We want to attract the best international women's players," head of Big Bash Kim McConnie said.

"We also need to balance that because we have some of the best cricketers in the world in our own market as well, but from a team point of view, ultimately they just want the best players.

"That's going to come from our own backyard but more and more international as well. Whoever ends up being the best players, then we want them in this competition."

Each WBBL franchise is allowed up to three overseas players on their books, but no more than five internationals in total.

Anyone who has represented Australia in a minimum of 10 one-dayers, and/or T20s in the three years prior to the start of the season is considered an international.

That means youngsters such as Sydney Sixers all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner and Adelaide Strikers leg spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington are exempt from international status given they have not played enough games for Australia, despite playing key roles in the recent Ashes series against England.

Channel Ten will broadcast 12 WBBL matches live this year, a threefold increase from the four that were screened last season, while popular women's lifestyle website Mammamia will stream every match live.

The third instalment of WBBL will also be the most widespread, with fixtures being taken to regional areas across the country including Albury, Penrith, Mackay and Alice Springs.

"It's really going to be more markets, more standing by itself as an independent league in its own right and more of this carnival festival style," McConnie said.

"We're going to be broadcasting more games free to air, and the reason we're doing that is because they're rating really well. It says people want to watch it."

They play the Melbourne Stars at North Sydney Oval on Saturday before squaring off against the Thunder in the local derby on Sunday. Admission is free all weekend.

"The speed and how rapid the rise has been of this competition has been wonderful," Perry said.

"At the same time we've got some really high expectations for this comp and for women's cricket in Australia. There's certainly aspirations to take it even further.

"That's what makes this year really exciting, there's more to it, there's more opportunity to watch the games and hopefully some wonderful competition in amongst it. We protect it, we own it, we want it to be great."

This story WBBL kicks back into gear with weekend of double-headers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.