This article was first written for and published by Siren Sport.
Despite lingering rain and the ongoing threat of COVID trying to prevent the opening weekend of the WBBL taking place, fans were treated to an incredible weekend of cricket featuring a super over win by the Perth Scorchers over the Brisbane Heat, Shafali Verma scoring her first WBBL half century for the Sydney Sixers and an impressive innings from Tahlia McGrath which helped the Adelaide Strikers to a win over the Sydney Thunder.
The cricket was entertaining, skilful and enjoyable. More so when you consider how challenging the lead-up has been for so many players.
For South African international Mignon du Preez, who is playing for the Hobart Hurricanes this summer, she only arrived in Hobart on Thursday with the Hurricanes scheduled to play their first match on Saturday. For du Preez, this meant barely any opportunity for a hit-out prior to the first game and very little time spent with her new team mates.
“I’ve been part of the WBBL for the last few years and have met or played against most of my new teammates, but it has certainly been different this time around not having really had time to spend time together as a team,” said du Preez.
“It’s certainly different having to play under these circumstances but at least we get to do the job we love to do and play cricket.
“At the end of the day we make these little sacrifices here and there and they are all worth it to be able to get out there and compete.”
It’s fair to say that the Hurricanes’ season has not started as hoped. On Saturday they lost by six wickets to the Melbourne Renegades and on Sunday lost by five wickets to the Sydney Sixers.
A challenge that the Hurricanes had in WBBL06, and which has also been a challenge for them in their opening two games, has been their batting and, in particular, the ability of the opening batters to establish a solid foundation for the innings.
“I’ve been looking for a new challenge and I feel like this opportunity with the Hurricanes will push me outside my comfort zone,” said du Preez.
“I’ve followed the Hurricanes’ results for the last few years and whilst they have done well in the bowling department, their batting has let them down at times. I have some experience, I’ve been around for a little while so I want to add to the squad and help their batting line up.
“I’m excited for the journey ahead, I’m hopeful I can contribute and that we can make the finals, then onto the semi-finals and then onto the title.”
The other thing quite different about the WBBL this year is the number of Indian players involved. In the first season, no Indian players took part. Since then, we have seen the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy participate. This year, a record eight Indian players are competing and it’s not just the fans who are excited, it is the other women competing as well.
“There is so much excitement about the Indian players joining us, especially after seeing the way they performed against Australia in the recent series,” said du Preez.
“I’m hoping it means plenty of Indian fans will be watching on television, or coming to the games if they are able.
“The fact that we have Richa [Ghosh] playing for us is great, hopefully some of her fans will be cheering for the Hurricanes.”
But as a player that has been part of the WBBL since the inaugural season, for du Preez the number of Indian players means that the quality of the competition will increase and hopefully also encourage India to place more pathways in place to support women’s cricket.
“Ever since the WBBL started, I have seen growth in the quality of cricket globally and being given the chance to play in events like the WBBL gives you access to some of the best domestic structures in the world,” said du Preez.
“We are so lucky to have access to these high performance structures because it also means that we can take our learnings from the WBBL and help the younger players back home.”
Additionally, though other global tournaments, such as the ICC Women’s Championship which was established in 2014, this has also meant that cricketing nations around the world have increased opportunity to play other cricketing nations.
“That Championship gave us the chance to play against countries that we rarely played against,” said du Preez.
“But it’s not just about playing cricket, on the field you can compete but off the field you are allowed to be friends.
“These women aren’t just opposition, they become your friends too.”
As for what fans are in store for this season, du Preez thinks there will be a quality of cricket we have not seen before.
“I’ve been around since the first year and it has blown my mind to see the quality of cricket played and how it has changed over the years,” said du Preez.
“I think we are in for bigger and better this season and I’m so happy to be part of it.”