Cricket Australia have launched the Women's Big Bash League, which will feature eight teams, aligned with the current men's Big Bash teams, playing 59 T20 games over 51 days (they play each other twice), starting on 5th December. At the end of the 56 game league competition there will be two semi-finals followed by a final, which will be played on 24th January.
Just eight of those games will be broadcast live on Network Ten's ONE channel, which will presumably include the semi-finals and the final. The first game looks likely to the Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Renegades on 19th December. It is a relatively small number, but it is the first outing for "domestic cricket" on television in Australia, and this is a free-to-air station which will be a big boost for the game in Australia.
In a well-co-ordinated launch each of the franchises named their first "star signing", namely :-
Adelaide Strikers - Megan Schutt (SA Scorpions)
Brisbane Heat - Holly Ferling (Queensland Fire)
Hobart Hurricanes - Julie Hunter (Vic Spirit)
Melbourne Renegades - Sarah Elliott (Vic Spirit)
Melbourne Stars - Meg Lanning (Vic Spirit)
Perth Scorchers - Jess Cameron (Vic Spirit)
Sydney Sixers - Ellyse Perry (NSW Breakers)
Sydney Thunder - Rene Farrell (ACT Meteors)
Four of those named are (or perhaps were) team-mates at one of Australia's strongest state sides Vic Spirit - namely Julie Hunter, Sarah Elliott, Meg Lanning and Jess Cameron. Each will now be playing WBBL against the other.
The big names amongst the eight are obviously current Aussie skipper, and number one ranked T20 batsman in the world, Meg Lanning, and Aussie all-rounder and favourite Ellyse Perry, who have signed for the Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Sixers respectively. Expect to see more announcements over the coming weeks and months as the teams start to take shape.
Under the rules each team will be limited to five "star" players (defined as current or recent Southern Stars or overseas players), of whom three can be from overseas. This is to try and create a more balanced competition and it will particularly affect the players from the dominant NSW Breakers and Vic Spirit state sides.
Some of the key names to look out for over the coming weeks are :-
Alex Blackwell (NSW), who has just finished a stint in English county cricket with Berkshire, and was the leading run scorer in the WT20 last season
Southern Stars wicket-keeper and hard-hitting batsman, Alyssa Healy (NSW), whom it appears may have already signed for the Sydney Sixers.
Aussie opening bats Elyse Villani (NSW) and Nicole Bolton (NSW), who look likely to turn up in the orange shirts of the Perth Scorchers.
There are also plenty of other current Southern Stars still to be announced by teams, such as leggie Kristen Beams (Vic Spirit), left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen (Queensland), off-spinner Erin Osborne (NSW), who has just finished a spell at Sussex, and Delissa Kimmince (Queensalnd).
Outside of the current Southern Stars a few names that are sure to be on some short-lists are:-
Former international Leah Poulton (NSW), who retired from state cricket at the beginning of this year at the tender age of 31. Her experience and batting skills would be a great asset to any franchsie, and it would be no surprise to see her name on the roster for one of the Sydney-based teams.
Erin Burns (Tasmanian Roar) is a star in the making. She was in the top 10 run-getters and wicket-takers in last years WT20 competition and plays a style of cricket ideally suited to T20.
Young off-spinner Molly Strano (Vic Spirit) could well be enticed away from her current state of Victoria. She is a Shooting Star (Aussie Academy) and has been honing her skills in England with Div 2 side Staffordshire, where she has been getting plenty of runs and wickets.
Some other Shooting Stars who are likely to be sought after are Jemma Barsby (Queensland), Amanda Wellington (SA Scorpions), Piepa Cleary (Western Fury) and Beth Mooney (Queensland).
And to these, of course, you need to add a sprinkling of overseas talent. Last year English trio Heather Knight, Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor finished third, fourth and seventh in the top run-scorers in the WT20. They are sure to be invited back. Also on franchise shopping lists will be New Zealanders Amy Satterthwaite, Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Rachel Priest. Also eager to play will probably be West Indian's Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin, plus South African's Mignon du Preez and Dane van Niekerk. It would also be great for the game in India if legendary captain Mithali Raj could find a slot in one of the team's, perhaps with team-mate Jhulan Goswami.
All will be revealed over the coming weeks and months.