Melbourne: Australia all-rounder Ellyse Perry has smashed a slew of records in a sparkling cricketing career and now hopes to play a part in another by helping draw the biggest crowd to a women’s sporting event at next month’s T20I World Cup final.
The record has long been held by the 1999 women’s soccer World Cup final, which saw 90,185 pack into the Rose Bowl in California to watch the United States defeat China.
However, T20I World Cup organisers hope the final at the 1,00,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground can trump it — particularly if the formidable host nation features.
While the championship match promises to be a milestone moment for cricket it could also prove to be a watershed for women’s sport in general, said the 29-year-old Perry.
“The thought of having 90,000 people at the MCG for a final — obviously we’d love to be involved in that final — but more than anything it’s just an amazing opportunity and really cool to be living it out,” Perry told Reuters in an interview in Melbourne on Thursday.
“(It would be) a massive push for the women’s game but more generally for women’s sport, both in Australia and also globally. Whatever teams play in that final it’s going to be an absolutely amazing memory that will last a lifetime.”
The final, to be held on International Women’s Day on 8 March, caps a tournament that will be played in the same year and in the same host nation as the men’s T20I World Cup but, significantly, stands alone in its scheduling.
It follows Australia’s first stand-alone women’s Big Bash tournament last October and November, which preceded the men’s domestic T20 competition.
“In terms of progress and development, having our own window for events and owning them outright is absolutely brilliant,” said Perry, the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year.
“I think it makes it the main spectacle obviously. It also highlights that women’s sport is a totally different product and you can enjoy them equally but also differently.”
Reaping the benefits
Australia has increased its investment in women’s cricket over the past decade and is reaping the benefits, winning four of the six T20I World Cups including the last one in the West Indies in 2018.
Perry has featured in all those triumphs, and much else besides.
She became the youngest Australian to play international cricket when she debuted in a one-day match against New Zealand in 2007 before her 17th birthday.
A talented defender in football, she also became the first woman to represent the country at World Cups in two sports when she played at the 2011 football showpiece in Germany.
Arguably the first global superstar of women’s cricket, Perry will be a major drawcard during Australia’s T20I title defence starting on 21 February.
A huge media scrum jostled for pictures on Thursday as Perry spray-painted her signature on a mural promoting the tournament on a wall in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane, a CBD alleyway decorated with street art and popular with tourists.
Her face now shares space on the wall with an image of the MCG and US pop star Katy Perry, who has signed up to perform before and after the final.
Having both Perrys on the bill for the final would be a marketer’s dream but the cricketer said that hot favourites Australia were not getting ahead of themselves.
“I don’t think you’re ever comfortable regardless of where you’re pitted in terms of favouritism,” she said, with the T20I World Cup trophy on display a few feet away from her.
“We obviously want to do well and be successful but that requires a lot between now and the final to get there. You do everything you can and that’s all you can ask, whatever happens, happens.”
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