Perry ready for Lightning return

Australian star Elysse Perry believes it is time to move on from comparing women’s cricket with the men’s game and celebrate the female version as a sport in its own right.

Speaking on the eve of the opening match in the 2017 Kia Super League, which sees defending champions Southern Vipers take on Western Storm at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton (Thursday, August 10, 2.30pm) in a rerun of the 2016 final, Perry sees no reason why women’s cricket should not enjoy the same profile women’s tennis has alongside the men’s game.

“If you look at tennis, it is probably the leading sport in terms of male and female equality yet they are really different games as well,” the Loughborough Lightning all-rounder said.

“Aside from the obvious difference that one goes for three sets and the other for five at the Grand Slams, the way the game is played is different.

“People appreciate the games for different reasons, like in the women’s game the rallies go on for longer because the serves are not as hard whereas in the men’s game there is the real power there. 

“But fans appreciate the two games equally for different reasons and because you’re a fan of men’s tennis doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy women’s tennis too.”

Perry, whose Lightning team open their fixtures away to Western Storm in Taunton on Saturday, believes cricket can also succeed because it is different.

“Obviously, women are biologically different from men but I think it is time we moved away from comparing women with male players,” she said.

“In my mind we are two different sports and so long as we are compared to the men’s game it kind of hamstrings us a bit because you can’t forge your own competition, your own game and your own kind of entertainment for the public.

“If you look at the ICC Women’s World Cup and the final in front of a full house at Lord’s you saw what a great spectacle it can be and the ECB and the ICC deserve congratulating for the way they staged and promoted a great tournament.”

Thanks to her success in cricket and her parallel career in international women’s football, 26-year-old Perry has become a high-profile figure in her native country, the face of women’s sport in Australia.  She is also married to the Australian rugby international Matt Toomua, who plays just down the road from Loughborough for Leicester Tigers.

Most other female cricketers have some catching up to do in that respect but Perry believes there is enormous potential for top women’s cricketers to become stars in the same way as their male counterparts.

“For women’s sports in general, whether it be cricket, soccer or the AFL at home, it is about creating your own identity and product,” she said.

“It is not just about the match on the day, it is about developing the stories and the rivalries and bringing the players to the fore in terms of their own stories and personalities in the way they play the game.

“There is so much scope for that in the women’s game with great characters and personalities and the World Cup showed it is really possible.”

After their away match with Western Storm on Saturday, which has a 12 noon start at Taunton and is live on Sky TV, Lightning host their two home fixtures in this year’s Kia Super League next week.

They take on Southern Vipers at the 3aaa County Ground at Derby on Tuesday (2.30pm, live on Sky), followed by a clash with Yorkshire Diamonds on Friday (4pm) at their base at the ECB National Performance Centre in Loughborough.

As well as Perry, the Lightning line-up features two more Australian World Cup stars in batter Elyse Villani and leg-spinner Kristen Beams, as well as England World Cup-winners Georgia Elwiss, the captain, and Beth Langston, and 35-times capped wicketkeeper Amy Jones.