ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020
Rolton warns of pressures of a home World Cup
Former Australia skipper and Hall of Famer has experienced a global event on home soil, and the outcome was not as she had envisaged
16 February 2020, 03:17 PM AEST
Karen Rolton, captain of the national women's team the last time a World Cup was contested in Australia and whose name adorns the venue where the current tournament kicked off today, knows first-hand how fleeting fame can be.
Arriving at Karen Rolton Oval in her former home town for the first formal practice matches of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup, Rolton was initially refused entry because the pass for the corporate hospitality function she was scheduled to attend did not satisfy accreditation protocols.
Admitting she gets "a bit embarrassed" by seeing her name adorning the new pavilion overlooking the pristine playing surface that hosts a series of warm-up games this week, Rolton quietly negotiated her way past the gatekeepers in time to toss the coin for South Africa's game against Sri Lanka.
But having played in the era before women's matches were regularly televised and players were properly paid, she understands her remarkable career record (averaging 51 with the bat across all three international formats over 14 years) does not bring the same recognition afforded today's superstars.
Rolton is also aware of the weight of expectation Meg Lanning's contemporary Australia team will carry into the first standalone Women's T20 World Cup, which is also the first global women's event to be contested here since the 50-over tournament held in Sydney in 2009.
She winces slightly when asked for recollections of that campaign her charges were widely tipped to win, only to crash out in the penultimate round of matches due to successive losses to India.
Rolton is reluctant to suggest there are lessons to be learned from that ultimately unsuccessful tilt that can be applied to Lanning's team, who likewise enter this tournament as strong favourites and whose presence in the March 8 final is seen as key to a world record crowd flocking to the MCG.
However, the 45-year-old does concede that playing in front of home fans while carrying the burden of favouritism does add an extra element of pressure.
"There's always a lot of expectation, especially more for this (tournament) being the first standalone one," Rolton told cricket.com.au today.
"And also they're trying to get over 90-odd thousand people at the 'G.
"Playing away from home is a little bit easier because you're away from friends, so you don't have people trying to catch up with you and all that sort of stuff.
"But it's also fantastic playing in front of your home crowd, having the support and being able to have everyone watch you play.
"So it's big pressure for Australia, but they've played enough cricket now.
"They'll be used to it and I think they'll enjoy the experience.
"They know all the grounds and that's a massive bonus for them."
That knowledge of the venues upon which they'll be playing – from the WACA Ground in Perth to Canberra's Manuka Oval – has been supplemented by the experience of the KFC Big Bash League and Women's National Cricket League competitions in recent years.
However, with the growing presence of international players in the WBBL, most notably players from some of Australia's toughest rivals England, New Zealand and South Africa, Lanning's team does not hold the same level of home-ground advantage as was the case 11 years ago.
It also means that in addition to the recognition factor afforded local heroes the likes of Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy, fans are also familiar with the exploits of New Zealand match-winner Sophie Devine, England captain Heather Knight and Proteas power hitter Chloe Tryon.
The increased awareness of the game's stars is one noticeable change from Rolton's playing days.
And it's a reason why she believes the record for the largest attendance at a women's sporting fixture (currently 90,185 for the 1999 women's World Cup soccer final between the US and China in Los Angeles) could topple regardless of the teams contesting the title.
"Whoever gets to the final there's going to be a massive crowd," Rolton said.
"It's going to be one of the most important days of women's cricket, and one of the best ones we'll ever see.
"I remember playing in the 1997 World Cup final in India (at Kolkata's Eden Gardens) and we had somewhere between 60 and 80,000 people and it was an amazing experience.
"You couldn't even talk to your teammate who was five metres away from you."
Since that match, when Australia triumphed by five wickets over New Zealand, India's women's team has emerged as a force in the global game which represents a pivotal shift in the sport's power balance worldwide.
Rolton is justifiably proud of the part that Australia has played in pioneering the profile and professionalism of women's cricket and sees that as the major change the game's undergone since Australia last hosted a global tournament.
However, she foresees the next phase of that evolution is likely to take place in India where the domestic IPL T20 competition has already come to dominate the men's annual playing schedule and tentative steps taken to emulate the BBL and expand the IPL to include a women's competition.
"England brought in full-time contracts first, and then Australia took the lead (and) have been really good with women's sport, and with promoting women's cricket," she said.
"But it would be nice to see an IPL (for women).
"They (India) have started trying to do that with one game here or there, and they had three games (last year) with some of the best players in the world so hopefully they can develop a bit more of that.
"And you never know, we might see a women's IPL pretty soon."
2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
February 18: Australia v South Africa, Karen Rolton Oval
February 21: Australia v India, Sydney Showgrounds
February 24: Australia v Sri Lanka, WACA Ground
February 27: Australia v Bangladesh, Manuka Oval
March 8: Final, MCG
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE
* All matches will be broadcast on Fox Cricket and Kayo, while Australia’s matches will also be broadcast on the Nine Network