Sophia Dunkley marvelled at how the Women’s Premier League has “changed the game overnight” and hopes other domestic tournaments such as The Hundred can follow in its footsteps.
While the England and Wales Cricket Board’s 100-ball competition still divides opinion, the prevailing view is it has substantially accelerated the growth of the women’s game and generated greater interest.
But even if Dunkley falls into the top salary bracket of £31,250 at a historic draft on Thursday, her remuneration would be just over half of what she is receiving at the inaugural WPL in India.
The England batter was snapped up by Gujarat Giants at last month’s auction for just over £60,000 – amid record-breaking sums being paid out – and has featured in six of her side’s eight group-stage matches.
“The first game felt pretty much like a World Cup final in terms of the atmosphere and the loudness,” the 24-year-old told the PA news agency.
“It’s a kickstarting moment and I’m sure it will create a lot of competition around the world. I’m sure it’s only going to grow the game and make it better for the players involved.
“It’s definitely not something I would have imagined growing up and for a lot of the girls that are a bit older than me, it’s amazing for them to get to experience that because the game is in such a different place to when they first started and were my age.
“It’s changed the game overnight in a way. To be able to say you’ve played in the first edition is incredible. I’m sure as the years go on, it’s going to grow and grow and grow.”
Dunkley helped Southern Brave reach the final of The Hundred last year but with teams only able to keep a maximum of four players, she was released as the Ageas Bowl-based team held on to Smriti Mandhana, Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier and Freya Kemp.
Dunkley is therefore one of the marquee players who will go into the first-ever women’s player draft to be organised by a major sport in the UK ahead of this summer’s spectacle – its third season.
“Hopefully the draft as a whole will be a really exciting thing for the women’s game going forward, changing teams up a little bit and adding to the competition,” Dunkley said.
“We all saw how exciting the WPL auction was and how much traction that got so hopefully the Hundred draft will be able to do something similar and make the competition more competitive.”
Dunkley’s involvement at the WPL means she has had little time to dwell on England’s semi-final exit at the T20 World Cup, where they were knocked out after a tight six-run defeat by hosts South Africa.
Alongside fellow opener Danni Wyatt, Dunkley was entrusted to set the tone at the top of the order as part of a new attack-minded approach under head coach Jon Lewis and captain Heather Knight.
Dunkley feels emboldened by the outlook and despite last month’s setback, she is looking forward to seeing how that mindset plays out in this summer’s multi-format Ashes series.
“I’m naturally aggressive,” she said. “I love playing that way so it’s exciting for me to be able to have that freedom and everyone in the team backs me so I can go out there and not worry about failure.
“The way I want to play my cricket is what’s going to define me as a cricketer. I’m not the finished article by a long way. I’m only 24, there’s still a long way to go in my career.
“We’re at the start of a new journey and hopefully the results will come with it. The Ashes series this summer will be a great test of that. We’re all on the same page and working towards something special.”
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