Mithali Raj: ‘Right time to get in IPL for women’

India ODI skipper Mithali Raj backs her statement citing the popularity of the women’s cricket team beyond two to three players.

India ODI skipper Mithali Raj at a training session at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.   -  AP

 

Around this time last year, Mithali Raj had made it clear that the time was not ripe for an IPL-style league. But on Sunday, she changed her stance and batted for the league.

Speaking ahead of India’s second ODI against England, Mithali said: “I felt that (way) before the ODI World Cup. At that point of time, the players’ identity as individual players was not as big as the ODI World Cup where people started to understand what is Indian women’s cricket and who all play for the team.”

“Now since a year or two, people have gone (on noticing) beyond two to three players. They recognise other players in the squad and now is the right time to get in IPL because T20 is also a format that ICC is looking to promote in women’s cricket,” the India captain said.

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She also believed that there will be cascading effect on the game’s structure with the introduction of women’s IPL. “We also have India A tour. I’m sure there is one in the near future. If we have more of that (then) we can give opportunity to the second string, not just playing versus the visiting teams, but also tours abroad to Australia or New Zealand. That exposure will help them immensely,” she said.

“As far as IPL is concerned, if that can be a double-header, like how we had the T20Is in New Zealand, that will definitely garner more people to come and watch us play, and obviously televising it and marketing it will get a lot of people to follow it,” she added.

Most of the stands at the Wankhede Stadium remained empty during India’s first ODI against England on Friday. The BCCI put up banners around the stadium premises, welcoming the fans free of cost. Even then, mostly the friends and family members of the players could be spotted for the opener.

England pace spearhead, Anya Shrubsole, also feels it is important to market the game well in a bid to draw crowd. “We want more and more people to come and watch the games. I guess neither me nor any of the England guys have any control over this. It is about the BCCI and how they market the game,” she said.

“Last year, when India played Australia here, they had a huge crowd turnout. May be, it is about finding the venues (where) people (will) come out and watch the game,” she said, hinting at India's series against Australia where a couple of fixtures were played in Vadodara to packed stands.