With 75,000 tickets sold for Sunday’s Twenty20 final against India at the MCG and the Australians’ story dominating the media, it’s another clear sign that our sporting women are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Australia’s female cricketers have often struggled to garner attention from the mens game, but Cricket Australia’s promotional push in recent years is finally paying dividends on and off field.
It is lesson that the AFL finally heeded, with that game’s belated move to recognise its women fans and set up the AFLW. That has prompted a surge in participation and heathy crowds that have shown the cynics ‘if you build it they will come’.
Just as soccer’s Matildas have emerged from the shadows of the men through their winning ways against tough competition, the T20 final is proving a catalyst for cricket’s women to grab the spotlight.
The Matildas smashed their way to a 5-0 rout over Vietnam this week, all but ensuring their berth at the Olympics, and yet the spotlight this weekend has remained firmly on the MCG.
It is a reality that once seemed a dream for our women cricketers.
Skipper Meg Lanning is on the verge of becoming just the third Australian cricketer to captain a World Cup title win on home soil, matching the feats of Michael Clarke and Lyn Larsen.
While Lanning & Co will play in front of perhaps 90,000, Larsen’s Australians claimed the 1988 women’s one-day cup with little fanfare.
Vice-captain Sharon Tredrea told AAP this week that a mere 5000 people were at the MCG to see Australia’s eight-wicket win.
“We just played cricket and there was a little bit in the paper. Maybe one story and that was about it,” Tredrea said.
It wasn’t the publicity machine or everything else that’s going on now. But it was a big deal for us because few of us had a chance to play in Australia; we seemed to be touring all the time.”
There are plenty of similarities with Lanning’s team to the triumphant side of 32 years ago.
Despite entering the 1988 tournament as overwhelming favourites, Australia lost an early game against England, who they would eventually crush in the decider.
The current team struggled against India’s spin in the opening group game, going down by 17 runs in Sydney on February 21.
Tredrea will be at the MCG cheering the Australians on, but thinks the game will be a lot closer than it was in 1988.
“It was great playing for us throughout (the 1988 tournament) but nowhere near the pressure that these girls are playing under,” Tredrea said.
“They’re under so much scrutiny and that comes with the professionalism.
“The trade-off is you get paid to play, but you’re very open to scrutiny.”
Officials are hoping to beat the world record crowd for a women’s sporting fixture which came at the 1999 soccer World Cup final when 90,185 people turned out.
On Saturday, the ICC released standing-room tickets for the 100,024-capacity stadium.
“We’ve spoken as a group about the crowd and really embracing that,” Australian captain Lanning said.
“It is going to be a different game; we haven’t played in front of a crowd this big before.
“We need to make sure we deal with that as best we can and actually just enjoy it and smile about what we’re experiencing, how lucky we are to be in a position to play in this game.”
The contest should also surpass the biggest crowd to have attended a women’s cricket match for the one-day 1997 World Cup final between Australia and India in Calcutta.
Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur said that match 23 years ago was a defining moment for cricket in her country.
“To be honest, at that time, I didn’t know there was women’s cricket,” said Kaur, who was just eight years old in 1997.
“I heard a lot of stories from my seniors about those great moments.”
The highest cricket crowd at the MCG was 93,013 for the 2015 men’s World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand.
Still, it’s not been all good news for the Aussies, with superstar Ellyse Perry to have surgery on her torn hamstring. Not only does the allrounder have to deal with missing Sunday’s record-breaking Twenty20 World Cup final, but she’s unlikely to play again until late this year.
The 29-year-old bravely lined up in Australia’s final group game against New Zealand on Monday despite carrying a hip injury.
While attempting a diving throw in the field against the White Ferns at the Junction Oval, Perry tore her hamstring off the bone.
“I’ve had the most incredible run; I’ve been very fortunate with injury for a long period of time,” Perry said.