While the Indian men’s cricket team follows the Future Tours programme, there is always a question mark over the women’s international tour schedule. With the multi-format series coming to an end in Australia, the Indian women do not know what their next international assignment will be for the ODI World Cup in New Zealand in March 2022.
The T20 Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) however begins on October 14, and with eight players from India for individual teams, this could be the platform for them.
“I am very excited to play in the WBBL and it is a great opportunity for us to grow as a team (India). If we get those games ahead of the international tournament, it will be great for us,” India’s T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur said after the series in Australia. Kaur, who is out of form and making an injured return to T20, will play for Melbourne Renegades alongside Jemima Rodrigues. The tournament begins in Tasmania and will travel to Adelaide, Perth and Mackay.
Rodrigues was also not in his best form in the home series against South Africa and the bilateral series in England, but found his rhythm with the Northern Superchargers in The Hundred, scoring 249 with the highest score of 92*. She also looked in fine form in the first T20I against Australia at the Carrara Oval.
After the match, she said: “Competitions like The Hundred and WBBL are top class. If The Hundred had not been with me, I would not have been in the India team after the England series. The number of innings I played during The Hundred brought back my enthusiasm and confidence. It would be great if India also has its own women’s T20 league.
While Poonam Yadav (Brisbane Heat), Richa Ghosh (Hobart Hurricanes), Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav (both Sydney Sixers), Deepti Sharma, Smriti Mandhana (both Sydney Thunder) are the other players who will play the WBBL, the other players will be out from October 31. For the state teams in the one-day domestic tournament to begin with.
This year the Indian women have played only three series apart from training at the national camp held in Bengaluru. India’s World Cup preparation may thus depend on the WBBL. “The reason the Australian team is doing really well is because they play very good cricket throughout the season. If you see Tahlia McGrath’s batting, we can see that she is getting so much confidence because of her competition in WBBL. They are ready to play international cricket,” said Harmanpreet Kaur during the T20Is.
Several top Indian cricketers have been demanding BCCI to start the Women’s IPL instead of the T20 Challenge exhibition, which was not held this year.
“If there is a women’s T20 league in India, it will be a great opportunity for the domestic players coming to the international level. The same happened with men when they got a platform like IPL. Now when they play international cricket, it doesn’t look like some young talent is playing, they show maturity because they have the tag of 40-50 IPL games where they have played good cricket and won matches for their teams, said Kaur.
The BCCI has hosted the T20 Women’s Challenge (exhibition games) thrice but has been reluctant to make it a full-fledged league as the pandemic is also affecting its finances. India coach Ramesh Powar has a contract till the ODI World Cup, but other staff are hired per tour.
Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim, who was BCCI’s general manager, said: “BCCI is doing a great job in promoting women’s cricket. Even girls across the world have done justice to their talent. Fielding coach and now batting coach Shiv Sundar Das is doing a good job with the women’s team. The reason for not awarding full contracts to the support staff may be that the women’s team does not play as many matches as the men.
Karim gave his opinion on not having a women’s T20 league. “That is the only (thing) we are lacking right now. If we get to play good cricket at the domestic level before the international matches, we will definitely improve as a team. The reason why the men’s IPL was successful is because of the kind of structure, the kind of talent that was coming from the domestic level. Similar thing should happen for women’s cricket as well. BCCI should have more matches, more tournaments. “
Eight Indians have got WBBL contracts this time as very few players from England and New Zealand are available. Former India captain Shantha Rangaswamy has criticized foreign T20 leagues, pointing to Harmanpreet Kaur’s injury. The 32-year-old batsman was injured while playing against South Africa, then in The Hundred and then in Australia for missing ODIs and pink-ball Tests on her thumb. Rangaswamy said that if Kaur gets so injured and misses India’s game, the BCCI should not allow its players to participate in foreign leagues, as is the case with men.
One domestic player, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disagreed: “Every cricketer wants to play as much domestic or international cricket (as much as possible). If there are not many international tournaments happening for India then why stop players from gaining experience from foreign leagues. When India has its own league, it can be decided.