86,174 people were captivated by play at the MCG, while a further 1.2 million watched from their homes as Australia secured its fifth ICC T20 World Cup.
The ICC’s campaign to #FILLTHEMCG had been gaining momentum for more than 18 months and when Australia qualified for the final in unlikely, rain-affected circumstances, it seemed the fairytale was within reach.
A total of 90,186 people at the ground would have broken the existing world record for the most attendees at a women’s sporting match, held by California’s Rose Bowl stadium when the USA defeated China in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in 1999.
The ICC and Cricket Australia fell agonisingly shy of smashing the Rose Bowl record and yet the World Cup final managed to rewrite history in other ways – it was the largest attendance at a women’s cricket match worldwide, the most fans ever at a women’s sporting event in Australia, while it was also Foxtel’s most-watched women’s sporting event in its history.
World record attempt aside, the T20 World Cup managed to bring in an audience that many had believed impossible.
In the lead-up, multiple media outlets referenced the goal as ‘overly ambitious’ and ‘far-fetched’, but the fierce momentum of women’s cricket in Australia over the last five years simply cannot be denied.
Cricket Australia’s ambition, investment and commitment to the women’s game has resulted in the first successful standalone rebel WBBL season and more girls playing, attending and watching the game than ever before.
And in the case of the T20 World Cup final, the ambition, investment and commitment to the women’s game truly paid off. And on International Women’s day, no less.
It’s predicted that the success of this final will positively impact female cricket through an increase in participation, attendance, plus growth in public and media interest. And with the sixth instalment of WBBL on the horizon, there’s plenty to look forward to.
For South Australian skipper, Megan Schutt, she not only became an ICC World Cup T20 champion for the second time in front of a roaring crowd, she also equalled the record for most wickets in a T20 World Cup tournament.
After being smacked for 35 in the Aussies’ opening match, Schutt quickly returned to her best, collecting 13 scalps across the next five matches, including a career-best 4/18 in the final against India.
But during Australia’s 85-run thumping of the visitors, it wasn’t just the cricket that captured the country, it was the astonishing images and electric atmosphere of the iconic MCG.
Schutt and many of her teammates have come from playing the game they love for little money in front of a handful of family and friends, to now, where a stadium brimming with more than 85,000 people watched them earn World Cup prize money equal to that of their male counterparts.
While the Australian Women’s Cricket Team have blazed an important trail for those that will succeed them in the arena, what they may not have realised is they’re blazing a trail for all women.
These athletes have demanded and earned better pay, conditions, respect and recognition. They’ve been wonderful role models and a beacon for equality in an increasingly socially-aware world. They’ve continually acted with humility, gratitude and good humour, while showing open appreciation for their position of privilege. Not to mention, they’ve achieved unparalleled on-field success.
"Enjoy it, smile about what we are experiencing, and how lucky we are to be in the position we are to play in the game."— Australian Women's Cricket Team 🏏 (@AusWomenCricket) March 7, 2020
-Meg Lanning's message to her team as they prepare to take centre stage in front of a bumper crowd at the @MCG https://t.co/Gqmtte3aTQ
In the coming years – possibly decades – there will be work to do in the pursuit of parity, both within and outside the sporting realm, but the 2020 T20 World Cup final should be remembered as playing a vital part in this pursuit.
After all, it wasn’t only an event that captured the nation, it was an event that captured the world.