Pictured: Alyssa Healy

Women's cricket is here to bowl us over after the 'Matildas effect'

Cricket stars Alyssa Healy, Mel Jones and Isa Guha weigh in on the rise in popularity of women's sport.

“Successful, brave, evolving.” These are the three (very true) words that Alyssa Healy used when Missing Perspectives recently asked her to describe the Australian women’s cricket team. That’s right, we had the opportunity to interview some of the biggest names in women’s cricket while at the Kayo Sports Summer of Cricket launch in Sydney. 

Of course, Sydney Sixes wicketkeeper Healy is one of the most-talked-about players of the sport at the moment, especially as she steps up to captaincy of the women’s national cricket team following Meg Lanning’s retirement last month. 

With it being a huge year for women’s sport, Healy says the ‘Matildas effect’ during the FIFA Women’s World Cup is comparable to the buzz that cricket generated just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

“After the T20 World Cup in 2020, you had 90,000 people at the MCG watching us win a world cup and COVID shut the world down the next day,” she says. “Cricket sort of lost its momentum in that regard. But what the Matildas were able to achieve here and the World Cup as a whole –  what it was able to achieve in Australia in getting fans to the game – I think was a huge step forward in the women's sports sector in Australia. I think that's what cricket can do and continue to build on.” 

“There's so many opportunities to watch the game of cricket on TV, but how do we get the people to the ground and make sure that they're there supporting their team?” she adds. “So that's the next step and the Matildas have shown every sport how to do it, so hopefully we can build on that.” 

Also on the ground to answer our questions was Mel Jones. With career highlights such as playing two successful World Cup and Ashes campaigns with Australia, Jones has remained a fixture in the sport since her retirement from international cricket in 2005, most recently as a commentator. She says one of the keys to ensuring there’s a greater uptake in women participating in sport, and people tuning in to watch women playing, is seeing industry leaders collaborating across the board. 

“Those decision-makers need to make sure that we’re doing it for all of women’s sport and I think that’s what the FIFA Women’s World Cup did [as did the] Women’s T20 World Cup in 2020. A recognition that it’s not just about their one sport. It’s about the broader community.”

Things have certainly changed in women’s cricket over the years. In April, Cricket Australia and the players’ union announced that minimum and average Cricket Australia women’s contracts would increase by 25%

“I played for Australia for over eight years and never got a cent,” Jones reflects. “So, all of a sudden we now see the Australian women’s cricket team on full-time contracts, absolutely bossing it around the world and also in competitions that now have females as full-time professional athletes – which is a massive, massive change to the women’s game.” 

Jones also believes it’s just as important to have more women involved in the sport in other areas, such as in leadership or commentator roles. Intersectional representation is also significant.

“When I started growing up, I never saw women’s cricket on TV so it was always the men’s cricket,” says Jones. "My dad’s from Trinidad in the West Indies so my idols were the West Indies men’s cricket team… it wasn’t until the Olympics came on every four years that I started to see some women, and women of colour, performing well.” 

Isa Guha can relate. The former England cricketer with Indian heritage says she mainly had “male role models” when she started playing cricket while growing up in the UK. 

“I didn’t see a lot of females playing the sport, even though there was an England women’s cricket team… let alone a South Asian woman playing cricket.” 

Like Jones, Guha is now a TV commentator for cricket around the world, and agrees “visibility is absolutely key” to getting more people tuning in to women’s cricket. “[It’s about] marketing around the sport and being able to do it justice and give it the broadcast support that it truly deserves.” 

Well, we’re definitely tuning in!