Taking the women’s game to the next level

Trent Woodhill is backing the Hundred to the take the women’s game into another dimension – in the same way the Womens’ Big Bash League (WBBL) has propelled the likes of Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry into a completely different sporting sphere.

The Aussie coach, who has worked with the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner in the past, has been brought in as a high-performance consultant for a competition that has been delayed by 12 months as a result of Covid-19.

But he’s confident that when it’s launched it will deliver huge gains for the women’s game and those fortunate enough to play in a competition that has already attracted global interest.

Earlier this week, Daryl Mitchell, the head of the PCA, claimed that a potential salary cut of 20% for those men involved in the Hundred was unlikely to be imposed on those female cricketers who have been awarded contracts for the women’s competition.

The prize money for both the men and women’s tournament is identical.

For the moment at least, the kind of cash on offer for those women is a fraction of that earned by Perry and Lanning, who are major stars in the global game, with contracts to match.

The scale and ambition of the Hundred, though, could soon see the likes of Sophie Ecclestone, Anya Shrubsole and Heather Knight, making similarly significant sums.
“We’re into season five of the WBBL and it has been fantastic for women’s cricket,” says Woodhill. “It has been amazing, they’ve got it right.

“It’s disappointing, firstly from a money perspective but also from a development perspective for the women’s game that the Hundred hasn’t been able to go ahead.

“I’m biased obviously, but I think the Hundred has the potential to match what the WBBL has done.

“People love a new Netflix show, they love innovation and they love the best people doing the best things.

“In terms of the new women’s Hundred, you’re going to have the best women cricketers in the world involved in the competition.

“For a start, that’s going to fast-track the best young talent in the English game. It’s also going to showcase the best in the world with Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy.

“Then you’ve got players like Sophie Ecclestone, Nat Sciver, Tammy Beaumont, it goes on and on.

“They will develop as heroes on a separate stage to the men. The profile of the Australian women is really high at the moment and they’ve earned that right, not just through their performance but by virtue of the fact that they’re generating their own market.”

It’s a measure of the impact that the likes of Lanning and Healy have had, that when Australia won the women’s T20 World Cup at the MCG back in March a record crowd of 86,174 was there to watch it.

“I think this new format will allow for strategy as well as provide a platform where players can showcase their ability.”

Little wonder that British audiences can’t wait to watch Lanning turn out for the Welsh Fire and Alyssa Healy play for the Northern Superchargers.

“The competition has created a massive opportunity for the women’s game,” says Woodhill. “It’s enormous and the excitement around the tournament has created a real buzz. It’s something new.

“There’s a huge amount of pent up enthusiasm for just getting back on the field of play at the moment, not just for women but for the men as well.

“The ticket sales for the Hundred have already demonstrated the appetite there is for the tournament.

“My interaction with all the players, whether they’re domestic or overseas, was that there is genuine excitement about it. Let’s see how it develops but I haven’t heard a negative word from players or coaches about it.

“We’ve done our homework. I’ve looked at what I liked about T20 and what I didn’t like about it and that’s from being involved in the IPL for 10 years and being in the Big Bash for nine years, as well as being involved in two Blast campaigns with Surrey and Kent and international T20s with New Zealand.

“You want a battle between bat and ball and you want high performance – because that’s what generates memories.

“You remember things that (Cristiano) Ronaldo has done, you remember things that Rafa Nadal has done, what Tiger Woods has done. We remember personalities but also their skills.

“I think this new format will allow for strategy as well as provide a platform where players can showcase their ability.”

The hope will be that the Hundred’s absence from the summer calendar is a brief one, announcing itself with a bang in 2021.

It’s a competition that still divides opinion between those traditionalists and those who believe that county cricket as we know it won’t survive without it.

For the women’s game, though, it could be a defining moment.

And after everything that has happened so far this year, the timing of the inaugural edition might prove to be absolutely perfect.