So it is official the Women's Big Bash will kick off in Australia next season - you'd guess in December this year.
Cricket Australia has announced that there will be eight women's teams that will align with the eight men's teams (see here) This means there will be two teams based in Melbourne (Stars & Renegades); two in Sydney (Sixers & Thunder) and one each in Perth (Scorchers), Adelaide (Strikers), Brisbane (Heat), and Hobart (Hurricanes). The bracketed names are the current men's teams.
It is great news for the women's game, but the format of the competition and the teams themselves, plus the participation of non-Australian players, and the payment of all the players that take part, and the television coverage all seem to be in the air at the present time. There are some interesting dilemmas to be resolved.
In the current state formats of the game (T20 and WNCL 50 over cricket) there are seven state teams. The front runners for many years have been the New South Wales Breakers based in Sydney. Their main competition has come from the Vic Spirit based in Melbourne. These two teams boast several Southern Stars and Shooting Stars amongst their numbers. How will they be reallocated with two teams based in their home cities. Will current state team-mates Ellyse Perry end up bowling at Alex Blackwell and Erin Osborne at Alyssa Healey, or Molly Strano bowl at her former skipper Meg Lanning?
You would guess that the bulk of the players for the Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart sides will be formed from the current state teams - Western Fury, South Australian Scorpions, Queensland Fire and the Tasmanian Roar already based in these cities, and if the Breakers and the Spirit are both split into two teams it may even the competition out somewhat.
As reported previously there is no place in the WBBL for state side ACT based in Canberra, so their players are likely to be drafted into the Sydney and Melbourne franchises just based on geography alone.
In addition there will be plenty of foreign players keen to show off their skills in the tournament, particularly if they are paid to do so. Quite a few of the current New Zealand side played part of the Australian domestic season eg Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Amy Satterthwaite, as did England's Charlotte Edwards, Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor. I cannot see an IPL auction being the way forward, nor a free-for-all, so you would guess that CA will set a limit on foreign players and at least have some say in who goes where, as they have done in state cricket.
As to the format of the competition and when the games are played, it seems likely that double headers with the men's games will be the norm, but these could be before or after the men's game ( I prefer after) and CA need to be careful not to treat the WBBL as a mere sideshow to the "real" Big Bash (ie the men). It will be a difficult tightrope to walk. Hopefully some kind of deal will also have been struck with Network Ten to cover at least some, if not all, of the women's games on television. Whether Sky in the UK or New Zealand for example would also take the coverage remains to be seen. Perhaps it would be better if a free-to-air television company picked up the rights to the women's games, if they are available (BBC are you reading this?). It would be great for the profile of the sport.
So there are undoubtedly lots of questions still to be answered, but the commitment seems to be there from Cricket Australia, for which I applaud them. Will they make all the right decisions and will the WBBL be an overnight success? Probably not, but it is another step in the right direction for the women's game.