Alyssa Healy launches one into the stands. © Getty Images

Australia wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy has urged Cricket Australia (CA) not to slash matches from the schedule this summer as a part of the cost-cutting process and to maintain its strong investment in women’s cricket domestically in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

The prospect of curtailed domestic competitions for the country men’s and women’s players this season has been thought of as a possible way to lower costs, with the board working on a reduced budget as it looks to lessen the impact the deadly virus has on the sport.

While no decisions have been taken yet about the structure of the 2020-21 domestic women’s season, Healy said that reducing games from Women’s Big Bash League and Women’s National Cricket League would further stall the momentum already lost following the record-breaking T20 World Cup this year and also jeopardise Australia’s preparations for the 50-over World Cup, which is scheduled to start next February in New Zealand.

“(Playing less games) obviously doesn’t sit great,” Healy, a board director of the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) told The Unplayable Podcast. “We don’t want to lose any cricket … it’d be a real shame. Especially the WBBL, it’s such a great tournament for us and it’s the bulk of the cricket we get to play. We don’t get to play much 50-over cricket in our domestic competition and that’s something that we as a playing group have been really pushing for in the last few years, that the WNCL competition is looked after.”

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“We don’t want to lose any cricket. I don’t feel our domestic players get to play enough as it is. We’ll have to wait and see what sort of decisions are made. I know that it’s not set in stone and there are some scheduling meetings coming up that the players are going to be involved in and will hopefully get to have their say on what the summer might look like.”

“Knowing there’s a 50-over World Cup on the horizon in February, we want to be playing as much cricket as we can to gain some momentum leading into that,” added Healy, who lit up the MCG against India on March 8 en route to their fifth World T20 title.

Although the competitions like the Sheffield Shield, the men’s and women’s domestic one-dayers and the WBBL don’t drive as much direct revenue as international matches and the men’s Big Bash, they still require significant funding in order to be played.

And with no first-class women’s competition in the country, female players already play much less each season than their male counterparts. The WBBL enjoyed more growth last summer, the first time the tournament had been held as a standalone event. It also saw increased broadcast ratings for the regular season that built to a crescendo in the finals, which was the highest-rated sporting event on television that weekend in early December.

The WBBL also plays a major role in lifting participation for women and girls, which not only leads to direct revenue through registration fees, but also leads to more people with a long affiliation with the sport through playing, coaching, or even as a fan.

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The right-hander acknowledged that the sport has been relatively untouched by the health pandemic so far, but stated continuing the investment in the women’s game would be needed to help it recover some of the momentum lost by the cricketing shutdown that immediately followed the highly successful World Cup.

“It’s such a shame that this has happened and we’ve potentially lost a bit of momentum, but I think we can pick that up pretty quickly once we get back rolling and (by) making sure we invest properly in the women’s game and make sure it thrives in the future,” she said.

“I think there’s a potential for the WBBL to be the first cricket that we see … so we want to make sure there’s a proper investment in the women’s game at a domestic level to make sure that it’s a really great product for people to watch.

“With talk that the international players may not be out there for it (due to travel restrictions), we want to make sure that the players around our state cricket are really well looked after and given the most opportunities to go out there and be full-time cricketers. And come WBBL time, put on the best show for everyone out there.

“People love watching the WBBL and we want to make sure that product keeps going from strength to strength,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, ACA CEO Alistair Nicholson said discussions with CA about the make-up of the summer schedule are ongoing.

“Reducing WBBL games has … been strongly represented to us recently; that’s not something (the players) want to do,” he said. “Domestic cricket is the strength of the game.”