Melbourne: Women's cricket changed forever on Sunday as a record 86,174 fans checked into the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to watch India take on Australia in the final of T20 World Cup.
Five years in the making, the highly-anticipated occasion lived up to its billing by setting a new attendance record not just for a women's sporting event in Australia, but for women's cricket globally.
In the six previous editions of the tournament, the highest final crowd came in 2009 when 12,717 watched England beat New Zealand in Sydney.
And seeing 73,000 more turn up in Melbourne for the same event 11 years later is a true testament to how far the game has come, the ICC said in a statement.
"I never thought I'd be playing in front of a crowd like this," said Australia's Ashleigh Gardner.
"It was amazing to have all those people before us."
What the match had achieved was apparent before the stadium gates had opened as fans streamed into Melbourne Park in their hundreds up to seven hours before the first ball was bowled.
Seas of yellow and blue engulfed the concourse as fans from all walks of life — male and female, boys and girls, young and old — came together through a love of cricket.
But it was when those fans entered the bowl that the real weight of the achievement hit home.
The noise was deafening from the offset — let alone when Alyssa Healy hit back-to-back sixes to set Australia on their way to lifting the title on home soil.
Since the 2018 tournament, there has been a 1600 percent increase in viewing minutes in Australia while the ICC's digital and social platforms have attracted an unprecedented 701 million video views to date — 600 million more than the 2017 50-over tournament recorded overall.
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Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) chief executive Todd Greenberg said the players of his country have no plans to leave the IPL as they have gone to India with their "eyes wide open." He, however, said "concern" is growing over plans to get them home at the end of the tournament.
RCB skipper Virat Kohli reached Mumbai on Tuesday, the day IPL-14 was indefinitely suspended due to multiple COVID cases in its bio-bubble. By Thursday early morning, all the other playing and non-playing staff had also left for their onward destinations.
Hockley insisted that Australian players are feeling safe and secure in the IPL bio-bubble but his comments came before it emerged that two KKR players have tested positive