This week, Cricket Australia has announced several rule changes to the men’s Big Bash League, hoping they might freshen up the domestic T20 competition and grab back the attention of some critics.
In comparison, its women’s competition seems to be thriving, with the skill and athleticism of WBBL athletes growing each summer to set a new standard of play.
It is the place where you put your hand up for international selection, as the premier women’s competition in the world.
And the level of interest it generates for the game in Australia is invaluable — evident by the record-breaking 86,174 crowd at the Women’s World Cup final in March.
So if all is tracking nicely, should it keep keeping on, as is?
Or should the WBBL be following the men’s lead and looking to update its rule book?
Stars coach in favour of innovation
Trent Woodhill already has a reputation for being an innovator in the game.
He has recently helped the England Cricket Board develop The Hundred competition and this year was appointed as the BBL’s first global player acquisition manager.
As the new Melbourne Stars WBBL head coach, he has had a very successful start to his women’s coaching career.
The team has already locked in top position on the ladder and will make the finals for the first time in six years.
But Woodhill believes the WBBL — albeit hitting great strides and being lauded for its high-quality cricket — needs to adapt with the growing ability of its players.
“In the men’s game, I can be bullish and push innovation and rule changes, but in the women’s game … sometimes that is met by off-field people who say hang on, you’ve got to respect the women’s game,” he told the ABC.
“That’s the next stage for women’s cricket. Not to hold onto itself too much or to be too caught up in what they think is right, so that they can continue to grow the game.”
Woodhill has been buoyed by his chats with both up-and-coming and experienced players, about the innovation they would like to see in coming years.
And he thinks the reluctance for change from some of the retired greats may actually hold the game back in the future.
“These women are paid well and are empowered, so we’ve got to tap into that and make sure that we’re listening to new players, as well as the Meg Lannings, Alyssa Healys and Ellyse Perrys … so that we develop and grow what they are doing.
Adapt from position of strength, says Beams
Former Australian leg-spinner Kristen Beams retired last year and is now a regular expert in the Grandstand cricket box.
She was a one-club player with the Melbourne Stars throughout the WBBL and captained them for some of that time.
Speaking on ABC podcast The Bat Flip, Beams agreed that innovation was important to ensure the league remained a premium product.
“When we look at the BBL, innovation has come as a necessity,” she said.
“People started to question whether it was relevant and if it was still a good product, and that has been the reason for the recent rule changes.
Beams also believes part of the responsibility for creativity comes back to each player and their individual training.
“It’s really important for players to innovate themselves and evolve their own game,” she said.
“Someone like Alex Blackwell kept herself relevant over such a long international career by reinventing her game.
“I remember she went and saw a baseball coach and was one of the very first people to look at power hitting.
Change doesn’t have to mean gimmicks
Getting the balance right — between retaining the fabric of the game and modernising it — is a tough one to strike, and Beams says people need to understand that change doesn’t always have to come in the form of a gimmick.
“I like when Trent speaks about innovation, that he also talked about having five out again, because sometimes it’s all about the batting … I wouldn’t be surprised if people suggested we should only have three fielders out so we score more runs.
“But maybe the innovation should actually go the other way, maybe our batters have got so good that we can go five out, or the boundaries become longer.”
Whether these advances will be made to the women’s game is purely speculative for now, as we near the end of the WBBL season with the finals in sight.
You can hear the action of the final weekend of the regular season on ABC Grandstand this weekend, on radio or the ABC Listen app — and you can follow the play online in our live ScoreCentres at www.abc.net.au/sport.