ICC Women’s World T20 – the standalone release

Former India cricketers Shantha Rangaswamy and Nooshin Al Khadeer help Sportstar debate on the shorter format’s contribution to the overall growth of women’s cricket in India.

India's Deepti Sharma (centre) and Ekta Bisht (right) celebrate the dismissal of Shemaine Campbelle of West Indies during a warm-up match at Coolidge Cricket Ground ahead of the Women's World T20.   -  ICC

Coming at a period when redefining the power of women and their integrity against male-dominated corners is gaining momentum, the standalone ICC Women’s World T20 is a reflection of time modified.

A record 112 T20 women’s international matches have been held this year leading to the World Cup starting November 9.

But can success here improve the women’s cricketing structure in India? 

More numbers

“When the Indian women’s team ended as runner-up in the 50-over World Cup last year, a lot of girls started playing cricket across the country. I hope they do very well for the unprecedented growth. We lack a wide base, we need more numbers. The popularity is bound to go up if we win this World Cup,” says Shantha Rangaswamy, a veteran of 16 Tests and 19 ODIs.

Read: Indian women eye T20 World Cup glory

With more matches, clearly the number of boundaries also increased. Batswomen around the world smashed 2,304 fours in 2018. Rangaswamy lauds the fitness acumen.

“The standard has improved. Batting skills have gone up due to the fitness training. But I haven’t seen any international match with a boundary line less than 75 yards. Now they have made it to 60 yards. This could be a secondary reason. But the primary reason is the powerplay today. It wasn’t the same three years ago.”

An old school romantic, she feels the ICC’s T20-friendly approach in women’s cricket put the spotlight on the shorter format. Her heart still beats for multi-day cricket. “When I was the chairman of the BCCI selection committee, I could tell the board to write to the visiting teams to play one Test at least. Once New Zealand refused stating they don’t play that at all. Windies put an end to Test cricket too. I can’t blame our board.

Also read: Jemimah charged up for women’s World T20

“I persuaded BCCI that time not to start T20 in the U-19 age group. That’s a vulnerable age. But now they have started it. We have to fall in line and do what other countries are doing. But if I had a say, I would tell them to start two-day or three-day cricket for the juniors as well. When you play the longer version, there is more emphasis on technique,” reasons the yesteryear all-rounder, who was also the first woman to lead an Indian women’s cricket team and win a Test series.

T20 is the future

Former India off-spinner Nooshin — from the World Cup batch of 2005 — is relieved that at least, the women are playing. “We are only concerned with the fact that we are playing no matter what the format is — T20 or 50 overs. Now there are more followers of women’s cricket and the expectations are higher,” she says.

There weren’t as many matches during her time. She believes  the approach towards the game has changed post Big Bash League and the IPL. But, echoing Rangaswamy, Nooshin highlighted that youngsters like Jemimah Rodrigues and Pooja Vastrakar are examples of sound training at the junior level. “They have never played the BBL (unlike Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy). I think it is more about the fitness and awareness. That has got the T20 going. If you don’t have the power, you can’t clear the boundary.”

Also read: Mithali confident of India's chances in T20 World Cup

Being the coach of Chhattisgarh women’s cricket team (all age-group), she believes the board pressed the right button by introducing the shorter format among the U-19 cricketers. “The vision is clear that limited-overs is the key. In some years, people will see a change in approach among the kids. Out of 50 girls, you will find 15 to 17 girls clearing the boundary. Not everyone will be able to do so unless introduced to T20. People prefer more of T20 these days,” she accepts the change in format dynamics.

Back in the day, Rangaswamy had won a Luna scooter for scoring a hundred in an unofficial Test against New Zealand. 

The current players at least have a chance to go for the Audi.