Players and organisers of an innovative new women’s cricket tournament set for launch in Dubai this week say they hope it will help grow the sport beyond its traditional heartlands.
The FairBreak Invitational is a six-team, T20 franchise competition, which will run for 11 days at the Dubai International Stadium, starting on Wednesday.
The 90 players involved are drawn from over 30 different countries. While established powers of the game such as Australia, England and West Indies are all represented, so too are the likes of Vanuatu and Bhutan, while there are also four players from UAE.
“I think this tournament is all about trying to help the associate nations and trying to grow the game globally,” said Heather Knight, the England captain who will lead the Barmy Army side in this event.
“These franchise tournaments are a lot of fun. They bring people together and you get to know people around the world.
“It is a great thing to be involved in as a women’s cricketer. International cricket, obviously, for me is the pinnacle. But to get the chance to play in tournaments like this is fun and exciting.
“It definitely helps develop players as cricketers. I loved playing in the Big Bash [in Australia]. That really helped me develop. This can be a breeding ground for players to improve.”
Suzie Bates, the New Zealand great, will lead a Falcons side which includes players from Papua New Guinea, Germany and Bhutan.
“Getting to know the players' strength as quickly as possible and giving everyone an opportunity to perform is going to be a challenge,” Bates said.
“It is a nice reminder of why we all started to play cricket. Everyone’s journey is different, but there are also a lot of similarities.
“As young players a lot of us had older brothers. Now hopefully there are older sisters influencing their siblings.
“As a New Zealander, you are grateful for the opportunities you do get. I am please we have this global tournament now.”
Geoff Lawson, the former Australia fast bowler who is part of the management team for the event, said the competition has been the best part of a decade in the making.
“After all the planning, the headaches, the heartaches and the hurdles, to see the players start arriving 36 hours ago and immediately bonding together is quite heartwarming,” Lawson said.
“It is very satisfying, but there is also a sense of genuine emotion. A lot of people have worked very hard to get this going, so to see the players walking in, collect their uniforms and immediately be proud of the colours they have got, it has been emotional.”