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Ellyse Perry has broken plenty of records, but the Women's T20 World Cup is her biggest challenge yet.

If you ask Ellyse Perry, it’s a great time to be a kid in Australia.

She would say that, of course. In a sports scene full of egos and entitlement, the superstar cricketer (and arguably Australia’s best athlete) is famously positive.

And she’s got good reason to be.

Watch: How you can play your part in history at the Women’s T20 World Cup.

Video via T20 World Cup

In the 13 years since Perry played her first matches for Australia in cricket and soccer at the age of 16, women’s sport in this country has seen stunning growth in everything from participation levels to crowd attendance and sponsorship.

“There are no gender confines or stereotypes in sport anymore. I really think that’s completely dissipated,” the 29-year-old told Mamamia.

“I just think that opportunity and access kids have to whatever sport they want to play these days is absolutely brilliant. All major sporting organisations want as many people involved as possible, and they’re certainly going over and above to make sure that their games are inclusive.”

During Perry’s cricketing career (her sole sporting focus since she put away her soccer boots in 2009), for example, there has been the advent of the Women’s T20 Big Bash League. This shorter, family-friendly format introduced the sport to a new legion of fans and made household names of stars like Perry, her Sydney Sixers teammate Alyssa Healy and the Perth Scorchers’ Meg Lanning.

Listen: Ellyse chats to Mamamia about her careers in soccer, cricket and… coffee.

Then, in 2017, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association agreed on the largest pay increase in the history of Australian women’s sport. The landmark ruling saw female player payments boosted from $7.5 million to $55.2 million.

“It is now a full-time career for a lot of girls,” Perry said. “I think the interest that the sport generates and way it’s covered in the media is certainly a huge change. And just overall, the visibility is just tenfold what it was.”

Of course, performances like hers certainly help.

In 2019, Perry — a prodigious all-rounder — broke several cricketing records. During the Ashes she became the first Aussie player, male or female, to score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets in T20 Internationals. She also took seven wickets for 22 runs against England, the best-ever figures in a one-day international by an Australian woman. For all this, and more, Perry was this week handed her third Belinda Clarke Award, Australia’s top prize for female cricketers.

And now she’s hoping to be part of another record.

“It could be like a firestarter”: The world record set to light up women’s sport.

The Women’s T20 World Cup is being played in Australia from February 21, and there’s a campaign underway to ensure the final attracts the biggest-ever crowd at a women’s sporting event.

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The previous record was set in California in 1999, when 90,185 people showed up for the Football World Cup final between the USA and China. The new record attempt calls for 93,000 spectators to the MCG for the March 8 match, which will include a concert by pop superstar Kay Perry (no relation… that we know of) and falls on International Women’s Day.

While Perry concedes that, from a player’s point of view, it would be “amazing” to step out onto the field in front of tens of thousands of fans, it’s more meaningful when you consider the bigger picture.

“For women’s sport in general, not just in Australia but globally, this has the chance to be incredibly influential for many years to come,” she said. “It could be like a firestarter for other female sporting events and just how great an entertainment package they are. So it’s pretty amazing.”

Not to mention what message it would send to sports-loving kids.

“Many young girls and boys could be at that tournament watching, and go ‘wow, women play sport at this level and it’s entirely legitimate’. And for the young girls who may want to be a part of that one day, then to know it’s certainly very achievable — I think that’s really special.”

For parents of those girls, in particular, who want to give cricket a try, maybe even who imagine a future playing at the MCG, Perry has this advice:

“Encourage them to do it and enjoy it and have fun,” she said. “If they’re good at it, then I’m sure they’ll be successful. But if they’re not and they just want to have fun, that’s equally as important.”

The Women’s T20 World Cup starts on February 21. To watch Australia slog it out against teams from India, England, Pakistan and more, head to the ICC T20 World Cup website for fixtures and tickets. 

To be part of history, secure your seat for the world record attempt at the March 8 MGC final here. Tickets, which start from $5, also include performances from pop superstar Katy Perry!

If you can’t make it to the grounds, all Australian matches will be broadcast on the Nine Network and the entire tournament will be available via Kayo and Fox Cricket.

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