Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Australia's domestic female players have been given a significant pay increase on the eve of the new WBBL season with an extra A$1.2 million of funding.
That will see an additional A$800,000 invested in WNCL retainers and $A400,000 for the WBBL which relates to a 22% and 14% increase respectively for the two tournaments although the gap to the men's game remains significant.
"This is another incredibly important step in driving gender equity in our game. Our players have made enormous sacrifices the last 18 months," Nick Hockley, the Cricket Australia CEO, said. "We pride ourselves over results to really lead the charge about driving equality cricket and particularly investing in the growth as cricket as a sport for women and girls.
"There's still a really big gap compared to their male counterparts but certainly we want to ensure to keep striving to make it an incredible full-time career. This week's announcement is about pritoritising closing the gap and further demonstrating that we are the leading sport in terms of pay domestically across Australia women team sports and we'll continue to invest in that way."
The WBBL has moved to its own standalone window in the October-November period and this year will be fully broadcast on TV for the first time. Last year the Women's T20 World Cup, the last major global event that took place before the pandemic, saw the final played in front of more than 86,000 people at the MCG.
On Sunday, Australia secured the multi-format series against India to continue their run of international success which included setting a new world record of 26 ODIs win in a row.
"The success and prominence of women's cricket in Australia has not happened by accident," Australia captain Meg Lanning said. "Cricket has shown that when you properly invest in female sport, the results follow and everyone benefits - the game, the fans and the players."
The pay increase is part of A$4million of investment agreed between CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) for the season. It includes $320,000 for additional wellbeing support amid the ongoing pandemic and $250,000 to allow players to bring partners and dependents with them to help during extended periods away from home. There has also been funding allocated to education, player hardship funs and the retirement payment pool which players can access when their on-field career finishes.
"Cricket continues to lead other sports in Australia, and indeed internationally - and this is largely because of the continued investment in the game that drives professionalism," ACA chief executive Todd Greenberg said. "The ACA has worked closely with Cricket Australia to continue to invest in the women's game - with a focus on the domestic level - at a time when many other sports are having to curtail player payments."
However, aside from continuing to close the gender pay gap, there remain other areas of the female game that do not replicate the men's. There was no DRS for the recent series against India, largely attributed to logistical difficulties caused by Covid, while there has been further debate about women's Tests being four days.
The volume of cricket for domestic players, certainly outside of the WBBL, remains an issue - state teams play just eight WNCL games in a season plus a possible final - and there are calls from within the sport to at least make it a full home-and-away tournament, but there is also a push to introduced multi-day cricket at domestic level.
"We will continue to advocate for equality in the men's and women's game in everything we do and in all facets of the game," Hockley said. "We won't rest until there is genuine parity across all elements of the game."
The WBBL begins on October 14 with the first 20 games played in Tasmania due to border restrictions. The WNCL was due to start in September, but that has been pushed back until at least decent