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Big Bash, women focus of new cricket strategy

Australian cricket launches a new five-year strategic plan to grow the game with the World T20 in 2020 the showpiece event

Growing the Big Bash League competitions and strengthening the women's game will be at the centre of Australian cricket's endeavours as the sport today launches a new five-year strategy.

Cricket Australia has long operated on a five-year strategic cycle and the new plan, which seeks to be the most inclusive yet in Australian sport and encompasses the game as a whole – including all eight state and territory associations as well as the governing body – will set the direction for the game through until 2022.

The ICC World T20 tournament hosted in Australia in three years' time is also central to planning, with the event to be used as a springboard to grow the game's popularity.

More than 8000 people involved in cricket, from CA's CEO to country volunteers and players at all levels, have been involved in a consultation process that ran for more than a year.

"In particular, we will be placing the emphasis on making cricket the leading sport for women and girls, and delivering the best participation experiences to grow junior cricket," CA chief executive James Sutherland said in a statement.

Other key strategic themes include: growing the men's and women's BBL; improving the High Performance system for elite players; improving technology to deliver better experiences for fans, participants and volunteers; and maximising long-term sustainable revenue to drive investment in the game.

Cricket Australia explains its strategic aims for the 2017-22 period

"We do not underestimate the challenges that are inherent in those strategic themes," Sutherland said.

"Our recent facilities audit – the first complete survey by any sport of all its facilities around the country – found that just 20 per cent have changing rooms that are suitable for women and girls.

"It also told us that too many cricket clubs do not have enough practice facilities, and that many new communities in our major cities have no sporting facilities at all.

"It is hard for any sport to look for growth if the basics aren't right, and this strategy shows that cricket is determined to act as one in meeting that challenge."

The KFC BBL has an expanded fixture for its seventh season this year, with eight additional matches, including games at regional centres. It remains to be seen what future expansion plans could hold.

The Rebel WBBL for the coming season features 59 matches in 57 days across 20 venues, and a showpiece Opening Weekend played in clear air before the men's competition begins, and between Magellan Ashes Tests.

Sutherland said growth of the Big Bash competitions was about "giving fans what they want".

Cricket participation is at an all-time high

"In planning our next five years, we have been very conscious of the proud history of the game in this country," Sutherland said. "History, though, does not guarantee continued success, and cricket has effectively used five-year strategies to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the challenges, and our ongoing responsibility to the future of the game.

"Over the past five years, for example, we have seen the explosive growth of the Big Bash League, the creation of the Women's Big Bash, successful innovations like day-night Test matches, and a focus on women's pay that now gives every woman the chance to enjoy a fully professional sporting career in cricket – and with Australian sports' first ever gender-neutral pay structure for both women and men.

"Last year, we recorded our highest-ever aggregate attendance for a single summer (a record 1.8 million Australians attended elite international and domestic cricket matches during the 2016-17 summer) and we recently announced that participation in cricket has also topped 1.4 million people.

"The challenge now is to keep pushing ourselves to even greater heights, to ensure that we meet our vision of being Australia's favourite sport, and a sport for all Australians."