The Men's International cricket calendar is as full as Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with so many matches taking place in all corners of this globe. As a lover of the game who is willing to watch copious amount of cricket, even I have trouble keeping up with what is going on in the world of men's cricket.
That problem of plenty has never been an issue when it comes to women's cricket, but all that is changing. When I made my debut for Australia in the early 2000s, there would be the mandatory tour at the end of domestic season against New Zealand. In addition, every other year we would play either England or India, adding to our bleak calendar.
That certainly isn't the case some 15 years later. The amount of cricket and the level of exposure of the women's game is something that I have not seen before. These are exciting times.
To kick things off, the BCCI broke down the glass commentary ceiling by hiring four females (Isa Guha, Melanie Jones, Anjum Chopra and I) to be part of the Indian Premier League. Whilst there have been female voices commentating on men's matches in the past, this was the first time that so many females were hired for the entire tournament. Therefore making sure that every match that was played there was a female voice that resonated from the television.
We must not have been too bad, as both Melanie Jones and Anjum Chopra followed up their IPL stint by commentating on the ICC Women's Championships (top eight nations playing each other to qualify for the next World Cup in 2017) between India and New Zealand, only a month later. It was one of the first times that Star Sports had shown a bilateral series, and I have no doubt that the cricket loving country of India would have loved seeing their countrywomen beat New Zealand in the series.
To further enhance the women's game and ensure that cricket is a sport for all, two of the powerhouses in women's cricket, the England Cricket Board and Cricket Australia, launched a domestic Twenty20 competition for their coming summers.
ECB's Women's Super League is still at an embryonic stage, but the details released are that it will be a two week competition with hosts bidding for the opportunity to house one of the six teams. The coming season will only see them compete in the shortest format, with the grand plan to extend the competition to feature 50 over matches in its second year.
On the flip side, Cricket Australia's Women's Big Bash League schedule was announced in early July, indicating that the eight teams will play 59 matches in 51 days. All current Big Bash franchises will accommodate a women's team, giving them the power to chase the best talent in women's game. The real silver lining is that eight matches will be televised on free to air by Channel 10.
It has been a vision for all in the women's game to not only get remunerated for their services in representing their country, state or county, but also to expose the game to the general public. And what better way than showcasing the women's skills on free to air television?
Cricket Australia just registered an increase of 18%, with just under 300,000 females participating in the game. Therefore one in four participants playing cricket in Australia are either a woman or a girl. What are those numbers going to look like next year after the WBBL?
Whilst the big cricket associations were paving the way, the Pacific Games took place in early July in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. I guess you could call it the Olympic Games of the Pacific Islands, with cricket being one of their events. There were six countries participating in the women's competition (actually more than the men's), and Samoa was able to overcome Papua New Guinea for the first time to win the gold medal.
This indicates that the game is stronger than ever, not only in cricket loving nations, but also in emerging nations. More women seem to be picking up the game of cricket.
Finally, the piece de resistance, at least from an Australian and English perspective, was the Women's Ashes. For the first time in the history of the Ashes, Sky Sports covered all matches which included three One-Day Internationals, one Test and three T20s.
Not only were large numbers tuning into the matches, but ECB just released the information that over 22,000 supporters purchased tickets to cheer on their teams.
The first two T20s were sold out at Chelmsford and Hove, with the latter being the ground where Australia regained the Ashes on English soil for the first time since 2001. In a post match interview with Sky Sports, Ellyse Perry commented that
A sell-out crowd does not make me feel like a woman cricketer. It makes me feel like a cricketer.
To coincide with this unprecedented television coverage of the women's game, the print and social media were exemplary, with front and back page stories on the matches regardless of who won the game.
Fellow commentator, Melanie Jones, was able to capture a snippet of the coverage in print media.
Loving the @Independent coverage of the #WomensAshes. Just as impressive when the @SouthernStars win! pic.twitter.com/Grrp8xKirp
— Mel 'MJ' Jones (@meljones_33) July 24, 2015
Front pg telegraph sport, back pg Independent, 2nd news story BBC TV after Tour de France and before EPL! #womensport pic.twitter.com/KY5hw7qCrC
— Mel 'MJ' Jones (@meljones_33) July 22, 2015
Additionally, the ECB marketed their team and the matches extremely well. An example was when I was getting off the train at the matches: the gates were branded with the Women's Ashes.
Hopefully, this is the blueprint for all cricket nations to follow, in order to increase the coverage, support and sponsorship of women's cricket.
What all of this adds up to is exciting times for the women's game. I can't see the level of support, the amount of matches and the opportunities to broadcast the game reducing. If anything, it has only one way to go: up!
So get on board now everyone. The train of women's cricket is leaving the station.