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Batting for Change grows with BBL

Ryan Carters' enterprise has grown with the BBL over the last four seasons Getty Images

While many of the BBL's watchers this season draw interest from online betting shenanigans, there is also a way of spending money on the tournament that will go in a rather different direction.

Season six of the tournament is also season four of Batting for Change, a cause put together by the Sydney Sixers' Ryan Carters and the LBW Trust in an effort to further the cause of education for women around the world. Put simply, BBL watchers have the chance to pledge money to the charity via its website, with a set amount pledged for every ball struck over the rope by the Sixers.

As the BBL has grown, so too has Carters' enterprise, from raising $30,000 to fund the building of classrooms in Nepal in 2013-14 to a far loftier target this year - $150,000 to support projects in India, Sri Lanka and, for the first time, Kenya. This year Carters has been joined by a bevy of other ambassadors - Moises Henriques, Steve O'Keefe, Nic Maddinson, Alyssa Healy, Kurtis Patterson and Ed Cowan.

"It's interesting, they've both grown together," Carters said of the two ventures. "There's a reason the BBL has become so popular in Australia and it's because Cricket Australia and Ten have done a wonderful job designing and managing the tournament. The standard of cricket itself is going up every year and the spectators love to see high quality clashes played out in the T20 format.

"The WBBL has added a new dimension and expanded the fanbase again, and from Batting for Change's point of view we offer a fun way to engage with the BBL, and as more people are watching matches live and on their TV screens, more people are signing up to become a donor, follow along and enjoy the thrill of seeing a six smashed out of the stadium and also knowing that's another $1-2,000 that's going to women's education."

The Kenyan project marks a particular progression for Carters, as it not only supports education but branches further into social activism - namely the fight against female genital mutilation and child marriage in Kenya. "It is a really amazing story," Carters said. "A woman called Kekenya Ntaiya, who grew up in a Maasai village called Enoosaen in Kenya. She was set to follow the traditional path, engaged to be married at the age of five.

"But she struck up this horrible bargain with her father where she agreed to undergo female genital mutilation as long as she could stay in school until the end of high school. That was very unusual for girls to attain even that much education, but her father kept his word, she was allowed to finish high school, and then she was allowed to go on and complete university and ended up going all the way to a PhD in the US. With her newfound knowledge and networks she started her own foundation to educate girls from her own village.

"Where we come in is that Batting for Change and the LBW Trust are providing the first ever tertiary education scholarships for women from this village. So for the girls who've gone through Kekenya's school for girls and now completed high school, the first of them are ready to start university in 2018 at the University of Nairobi, so we're excited about launching that."

Carters, who has pursued interests far more diverse than cricket throughout his life, hopes that this latest project can lead to others of a similar, transformational nature. "There are tricky decisions like geographically what do you want to support," he said, "because there are worthy projects all around the cricket world and we've looked at a number of them.

"But Kekenya really stood out because it's such a moving story from the founder, and we know that as well as supporting women's education, by doing so we're also preventing female genital mutilation and child marriage. It's about education but also preventing a harmful and oppressive practice. I think we do stand for social progress, above all with the focus on women's education, which is a huge step forward in many parts of the cricket-playing world.

"In that sense it's already a very progressive vision for change to encourage women's education. With Kekenya, the policy for girls to go to her school is that the parents must agree that the child will not be genitally mutilated or married before they finish high school. That further helps extend the social progress and the search for women to have the same rights as men."

When the Sixers meet the Sydney Thunder in the BBL opener on Tuesday night, they will compete to hoist the Batting for Change Cup. In doing so they will hope the symbolism can lead to further progress, via the pledges of the many thousands watching at home or in the stands.