The last time an ICC women’s tournament was held in Australia – the 50-over World Cup in 2009 – six venues across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory hosted matches.
The final was played at North Sydney Oval, where a crowd of several thousand turned out to watch England and New Zealand battle it out for the trophy.
It’s a sign of how much has changed in the game and in women’s sport in general – and how quickly – that on Tuesday the ICC and Cricket Australia announced that little more than a decade since that 2009 event, the country’s greatest sporting coliseum, the MCG, will host the final of the standalone 2020 Women’s World T20 tournament.
Not only that: they’re aiming to set a world record for attendance at a women’s sporting match when the match is held on March 8 – International Women’s Day – in 2020.
A packed house at the MCG could potentially beat the 90,185 crowd that filled the Rose Bowl in California in 1999 for the women's soccer World Cup final between the USA and China.
In 2009, World Cup games were played at North Sydney, Bankstown Oval, Drummoyne Oval, Bowral’s Bradman Oval, Newcastle Sports Ground and Canberra’s Manuka Oval.
In 2020, the tournament will be launched at Sydney’s Spotless Stadium and both semi-finals will be played at the SCG.
Manuka and the WACA Ground will also host group stage matches, alongside Melbourne’s Junction Oval.
Once you add in warm-up matches in Adelaide and Brisbane, six different cities will have an opportunity to watch the world’s best players in action during the tournament, which will run from February 21 to March 8 – a full seven months ahead of the men’s event, which begins that October.
“It shows how far the game has come,” Australia captain Meg Lanning said at the MCG on Tuesday.
“The support for the women’s game has been great, especially with the Ashes.
“It’s not just cricket, it’s women’s sport in general and to show we want to play the final here at the MCG and fill it, shows where it’s headed.”
Filling the MCG is a lofty goal. But the crowds keep growing: in October and November last year, the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes attracted almost 30,000 fans across matches held at boutique venues including North Sydney Oval and Brisbane’s Allan Border Field.
That represented a 33 per cent increase on the 2015 Ashes series in the United Kingdom, and almost doubled the number of attendees from the previous home series in 2013.
Leading into the final weekend of the current Rebel WBBL regular season, the tournament had attracted more than 100,000 people through the gates, a 30 per cent increase on WBBL|02.
In July last year, a sold-out crowd at Lord's watched as England claimed the 2017 50-over World Cup.
After witnessing first-hand the giant strides the game has made in audiences, attendances and in player payments in recent years, Australia and Brisbane Heat opener Beth Mooney believes anything is possible.
“You look at the last 18 months, not only in women’s cricket but in women’s sport around the country, it’s come on in leaps and bounds,” Mooney said.
“The goal for 2020 is to fill out the MCG for the World T20 final – hopefully Australia is part of that and hopefully I am too.
“The investment in women’s cricket … has been phenomenal and helps the game move forward.
“We play a lot more cricket now, we’re fully professional as athletes.
“You look at the Australian team at the moment and a lot of our best players are becoming better and better as the years go on.
“Putting all my time and honing my skills better into making sure I’m the best athlete and person I can be is very important, and has made a world of difference for me in the last six to 12 months.”