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Sune Luus bats for expansion of T20 franchise cricket: 'Important to know different players and different conditions'

"Women's cricket is very much on the map. People want to invest in it and I hope it continues."

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Sune Luus hit the winning runs in the final of the FairBreak Invitational tournament  •  FairBreak Global

Sune Luus hit the winning runs in the final of the FairBreak Invitational tournament  •  FairBreak Global

Women's domestic cricket in India has already benefited from franchise T20 cricket to the point that Indian "domestic players can walk into the South African side any day," according to South Africa's captain Sune Luus, who played for the Supernovas.
Luus, who has featured in both the FairBreak Invitational tournament and Women's T20 Challenge last month, said while the overall standard of women's cricket has improved across nations, India have fast become among the leading nations in the shortest format and have a steady supply for players and strong support for the game to thank for their progress.
"Being at FairBreak and being in India for the IPL was a massive opportunity and an awesome learning curve. Both are T20 cricket - the changes are in the conditions and the opposition you are playing against," Luus said, on arrival in Ireland, where South Africa's winter tour begins.
"The IPL was a bit of a better standard. With FairBreak there are a lot of girls from the Associates, some girls who used spikes for the first time, who played on a turf wicket for the first time so it was a whole different experience. The most surprising thing for FairBreak was the standard of cricket. You don't really know about Austrians playing cricket or countries like that. But to see the standard they are at and the love of the game, it was exceptional to see. You can't compare it to India. They are fanatics of cricket. They absolutely love it. And even the domestic players can walk into the South African side any day. The standards were a bit different but overall it was good cricket."
Luus was part of the winning team in both competitions and had ample opportunity to test herself against the best. She hit the winning runs for the Tornadoes in the inaugural FairBreak tournament in Dubai, in what was a fairly one-sided final, and made a crucial decision in the field for the Supernovas in a tight final against Velocity in India. Chasing 166, Velocity needed seven runs to win off the last two balls and Laura Wolvaardt, unbeaten on 64, was facing strike. Given that Luus captains Wolvaardt at international level, Supernovas captain Harmanpreet Kaur had a question for Luus.
"She ran to me and she was like, 'Do we bring square leg up and keep deep extra out or do we take square leg out and bring deep extra in?' It was a very short conversation."
Knowing Wolvaardt's strength on the cover drive, Luus, who was stationed on the boundary, told Kaur, "You cannot bring deep extra cover in. You are going to have to keep me out and we are going to have to gamble with square leg being in the circle."
England international Sophie Ecclestone, the left-arm spinner, was bowling and delivered a flatter, faster ball that Wolvaardt could not get under and inside-edged to long-off for a single. Luus was more relieved than excited at first, as she helped mastermind a title-winning fielding strategy.
"Luckily Sophie, the competitor that she is, executed her ball perfectly and the game plan worked," she said. "If it had been the other way around, she (Kaur) would have probably been on my case for that one."
It's instances like that, where national team-mates are pitted against each other and international competitors are made to combine, that has underpinned the success of various franchise men's T20 leagues around the world and Luus hopes it can do the same for women's cricket.
"It's an opportunity for some of the domestic players within countries to play with international players from around the world and obviously gain experience and learn from them," she said. "It's important to have T20 leagues across the world to get to know different players and play in different conditions."
Just like the men's game, as franchise tournaments grow and the calendar is squeezed, Luus recognises that international cricket may suffer. "It's just a case of finding the balance with international cricket and finding the time to get enough international cricket in the calendar," she said.
Already, the likes of Luus, Wolvaardt and Ayabonga Khaka have only had a couple of weeks between the Women's ODI World Cup, which ended in April, and the FairBreak and Women's T20 Challenge. The trio have now traveled to the UK, where South Africa will be on tour until mid-August, playing in six T20Is against Ireland and England. Also on the calendar are the ICC Women's Championship ODIs against Ireland, a one-off Test against England (South Africa's first since 2014), ODIs against England and the Commonwealth Games. Luus said they would have to be smart with switching between formats and keeping players in form as the weeks roll on.
"It's a very difficult thing because we have ICC points up for grabs, we have a Test match coming up which is quite new for a lot of the players and in-between that we have to focus on T20 cricket for the Commonwealth Games," she said.
But, Luus agrees that it's better than the alternative, especially as women's cricket continues to make big strides.
"Women's cricket is becoming big in a lot of the countries and we are making our case for it to become professional in many of the countries and some of the Associate countries as well," she said. "Women's cricket is very much on the map. People want to invest in women's cricket. I hope it continues. Women's cricket deserves that."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent