Women’s cricket has come a long way in the last few years and the build-up for the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia, the second straight standalone tournament following the success of the 2018 World T20 in the Caribbean, is just further proof. The tournament in Australia already promises to be the best in the history of the game, and a record crowd is expected at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground for the final scheduled to coincide with international women’s day.
The situation is quite different, even from say 2016, when Mithali Raj and Co played the World T20 at home. “For the first time we are on billboards. It’s nice to see friends and family ring us up and tell us that they have seen us on TV,” Raj had said back then.
But the tournament itself had something of an anti-climactic feel to it, both in terms of India’s performances and how the event panned out on slow pitches in front of mostly empty stands across the country in the afternoon heat.
The West Indies win on the final day against tournament dominators Ausralia, however, set the tone for the women’s game to grow into the much-more marketable product that it is today. After the 2017 World Cup in the following year, the organisers of the game grew more confident in the package they had at hand: a cricket event that did not need to shadow the men’s teams to thrive.
A large contributing factor to that has been how batting has evolved in the shortest format. The World T20 in 2016 was not helped by the slowness of the pitches but even in similar conditions in 2018, the power-hitting revolution was there for the world to see, led by Harmanpreet Kaur and Alyssa Healy, to name a couple of stars at the forefront.
Coming on the heels of the first standalone Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, the domestic T20 tournament that helped change the way many teams approached batting, the upcoming World Cup will definitely see a more power-based batting display from teams.
A look at the overall strike rate for teams since the advent of the game tells you the story. So far in 2020, the players are going at 110-plus so far while the last four years have seen the overall SR cross 100.
SR per year (only for 10 teams at 2020 WC)
The numbers are even more significant when one considers the top order (batting positions 1, 2 and 3) and the middle order (batting positions 4, 5, 6 and 7) separately.
SR for top order (only for 10 teams at 2020 WC)
SR for mid-order (only for 10 teams at 2020 WC)
The women’s game used to always witness a good percentage of fours being hit but six-hitting is where the game has made the most significant strides in the last four years or so.
Sample this: for the 10 teams who are competing at the 2020 World Cup, as an average the balls taken to hit a six has gone down by more than 50 deliveries since 2015.
Balls per sixes/boundaries (for 10 teams at WC)
|Year||4s||6s||Balls per six||Balls per boundary|
When you consider only the top five teams as per the current rankings, the frequency of six-hitting (as well as boundary-hitting) is at the highest in the last three years.
Balls per sixes/boundaries (*for current top 5)
|Year||4s||6s||Balls per six||Balls per boundary|
Another indicator for batting evolving into scoring more freely in T20Is can be seen by the average scores set by teams while batting first. Australia, understandably, are leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in this metric. The overall average has also gone up from close to 115 in 2015 to more than 140 in 2020 so far. The current top five teams show why they are ranked where they are when you look at their averages in the last couple of years: India and West Indies’ struggles in 2018 are seen in these statistics.
But overall, the best teams are not satisfied with run-a-ball scores anymore. The intent to score big while batting first, especially on good pitches, has completely changed in the last few years. You still see the odd game where scores around 120 are defended, but that is now the exception and not the norm.
Average score while batting first in last 5 yrs
The runs-per-over metric, perhaps, shows the biggest change in the women’s game. From an average run-rate of 5.76 in 2015, the best teams in the world score at over 7-runs-an-over these days consistently. Australia breached the 8-run-per-over mark in 2018 and 2019, which is close to the average in the men’s game.
RPO (batting 1st & 2nd) in last 5 yrs
Finally, the true measure of the power-hitting game was evident in the 2018 World T20 in the Caribbean. Even on slow surfaces that were not too dissimilar to the ones in the Indian subcontinent, the tournament witnessed significantly higher frequency of boundaries. While the tournament run-rate of 6.03 was only a slight upgrade from 5.99 in 2016, the sixes were hit at twice the frequency: while a six was nearly every 11 overs in 2018, the number stood at a little over 20 overs for 2016.
Sixes hit in the past World Cups
|T20 WC||Mat||50s / 100s||4s||6s||Balls per six||Balls per 4s/6s|
|2018||22||14 / 1||440||75||65.07||9.48|
|2010||15||9 / 1||280||53||65.70||10.46|
|2014||27||17 / 1||610||57||110.26||9.42|
|2012||17||6 / 0||317||30||122.63||10.60|
|2016||23||13 / 0||483||43||123.53||10.10|
The purists might tell you that the game is at its best when it is an even contest between bat and ball but the reality is that the shortest format thrives on the big hits. The bowlers will continue to play a more significant role in the women’s game than the men’s, because the art of batting is still evolving but the tournament in Australia will almost certainly break most of the afore-mentioned records.
The fans want to witness high-scoring T20 games and quickfire half centuries or a century of the quality hit by Harmanpreet Kaur against New Zealand in 2018.Those are the type of matches and innings that drive people to watch the game and the 2020 edition promises to be the best one yet as far as big hits and high scores go.