Australia coach Justin Langer believes disgraced David Warner and Steve Smith are ready for a hostile reception from South African supporters when they play in a three-match Twenty20 International series starting in Johannesburg on Friday.
There is no doubt that the WBBL is the best domestic women’s cricket competition in the world.
Opening up the tournament to imports means that fans get to see more of the very best in the world when they watch a game.
It also has the perhaps less positive impact of giving offshore players the experience of playing in Australian conditions against Australian players. It very much has the potential to derail the Southern Stars’ hopes of defending their women’s T20 World Cup crown in just a few weeks.
It’s not as if we haven’t seen this before. The Super Netball competition is by far the strongest netball league in the world. So where has Australia come up in the last Commonwealth Games and the last World Cup?
Runners up, firstly to England in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and secondly to New Zealand in England.
The rest of the world has caught up. Building up international competition is good for any sport. Australia, however, won’t dominate netball like it has previously.
I think this women’s T20 World Cup is going to be a lot tighter than many in the media would lead us to believe. Any of New Zealand, England or India could upset the Aussies in their home tournament.
While you can’t read too much into practice games, some chinks have appeared in the Australian armour. Alyssa Healy was one of the main reasons why Australia won the World Cup in the West Indies.
However, after some middling state form leading into this current tri-series, she has scored 0, 1 and 9 in her last three outings heading into the last pool game against England.
Rachael Haynes is also struggling for form. Whilst Meg Lanning seems to have recovered from injury, any further lapses could prove critical.
Of more concern, India chased down 173 in their second game against Australia. Ash Gardner batted extremely well but our bowlers this time couldn’t get their lengths right.
Of course you don’t lose World Cups in practice games, and the Southern Stars are yet to name their best 11. However, it can provide other teams with the confidence that Australia can be beaten.
Judging from the WBBL, New Zealand and England will also be big threats.
For New Zealand, Sophie Devine topped the run-scoring chart in the WBBL and was among the leading wicket-takers. Backed up by the likes of Suzie Bates, Rachel Priest and young leg spinner Amelia Kerr, the White Ferns will do some damage in this tournament.
Danni Wyatt hasn’t quite hit her straps yet after scoring plenty of runs in the WBBL. However, Heather Knight and Fran Wilson are scoring plenty of runs in the middle order for England. They will be competitive.
While not completely writing off the West Indies or South Africa, it’s most likely that two of Australia, India, England or New Zealand will step out on to the MCG on the March 8 for the T20 World Cup Final.
Australia will still go into the tournament as favourites, but the rest of the world is catching up. With the inclusion of imports, the WBBL has a truly international feel.
Sometimes, however, you need to be careful what you wish for, with a real upset now a big possibility in Melbourne.