It has been four seasons in the making but the Women’s Big Bash League is now officially its own standalone competition. Female players throughout the country have been waiting patiently to get our chance to show the world just what we can do and hold our own.
My team, the Sydney Sixers, kick the competition off on Friday night against our cross-town rivals Sydney Thunder. The anticipation and excitement are building and we all understand the enormity of the occasion.
For the first four editions of the WBBL, our lead-in and preparation has always been different and thrown up various challenges. This year has been no different, and probably the most challenging and disjointed of them all.
The build-up has been slightly longer than normal, approximately three weeks, but our full squad had not even fully assembled two days before the first ball is bowled.
Our young, local players have been training hard together and participated in two practice matches, giving them all fantastic opportunities to pose the coaching staff some selection questions – and possibly answers. Some youngsters to look out for include all-rounder Hayley Silver-Holmes, who played a lot of matches last season, batter and backup wicketkeeper Maddy Darke and Jodie Hicks, who has traded in her Sherrin for a Kookaburra, at least for now.
The Australian representative contingent came into camp with less than a week to prepare with the squad, after a successful T20 and ODI series against Sri Lanka. For those that may have missed, it’s clear to see that all of those players – Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner and Erin Burns – will be bringing some red hot form into WBBL|05.
Alyssa Healy in action for the Sixers. (AAP Image/David Moir)
With the manner that Alyssa Healy is currently playing, I’m backing her to be this edition’s leading run-scorer. Expect some fireworks from Gardner and Burns too, with both keen to put their hand up for leading roles in the Australian team for the T20 World Cup in Australia in February.
Our South African superstars, Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk, are both experiencing less-than-ideal lead-ins to the competition – Dane recovering from injury and Kappie joining the squad from India after South Africa’s tour there. While she is coming to us with match practice and some stellar performances, international travel after a tour is always difficult.
As for myself, I’m essentially coming into the squad from a holiday! I was with the squad for the first week of training and was very excited to pull on the magenta for a fifth season. That then turned to swimmers, a bridesmaid’s outfit and the sunshine and warmth of Mauritius. My best friend of 30 years got married and it was an event I couldn’t miss.
Never fear, my preparation for a big season ahead didn’t stop despite the distance from the squad. After a bit of research, it turns out Mauritius has its own cricket facility with three playing fields, a clubhouse and outdoor synthetic nets – there’s a large Indian influence on their culture which sees many expats making up the teams in their local cricket competitions.
The facility was located on the north of the island next to one of their main football stadiums. The quality may not have been as flash as we get in Australia, but it was able to do the job allowing me to have a space to keep my bowling loads ticking over, as well as a space to run to ensure I’m ready to go come matchday. I have to admit, recovery swims in the pristine blue waters of the Indian Ocean were probably my favourite part of my training days!
While the overall squad preparation leading into the first Sydney Smash of WBBL|05 hasn’t been ideal, you’ll still see us striving to live by our team motto to play attacking cricket that inspires the community and ultimately drives success.
A right-arm fast-medium bowler with a shrewd cricket brain, Sarah Aley has been a mainstay of the NSW Breakers and Sydney Sixers for well over a decade. She represented Australia against England in the 2017 Ashes and leading into WBBL|05 was the tournament’s highest-ever wicket-taker.
The second spot in the Big Bash League final will be decided when the Melbourne Renegades host the Sydney Sixers at Marvel Stadium. This is The Roar’s guide to streaming the match online or watching it on TV.