Mithali Raj: Time not right for IPL for women

The Indian captain pointed to the need to develop a pool of quality players before embarking on such a venture.

Mithali Raj at a press conference alongside Jhulan Goswami in Mumbai on Tuesday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mithali Raj, the world’s highest run-getter in One-Day Internationals (6295 runs in 191 matches), put an end to the needless debate on whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should start a league that resembles the Indian Premier League for women.

There has been a clamour of sorts for an IPL-like competition for women following India’s heart-warming display in the ICC Women’s World Cup in England last year.

Mithali was quite emphatic that the time isn’t ripe for a high-profile Twenty20 tournament.

‘Big difference between international and domestic players’

“I think it’s important to have a pool of quality players who would be qualified to play the IPL kind of league. India ‘A’ itself needs quality players. Once we have so many players, it would be wise enough to think of an IPL-like league. There is a big difference between an international player and a domestic player and presently [an IPL-like league] may go against promoting women’s cricket,” she said at a media interaction at the Cricket Centre on Tuesday.

Read: Impressed with Jemimah, Mithali calls for youth power

The India ‘A’ team came up short in four warm-up matches against Australia and England; Mithali believes the ‘A’ team is in a fledgling state and will take time to build.

“We have just started forming the India ‘A’ team. It will take a couple of years to get the second string in place. There are some young and talented players, but they need to be given exposure. So I am sure in a year or two we will have a better quality second-string team. We need to invest in the young players like Jemima Rodrigues, Taniya Bhatia and Pooja Vastrakar.”

‘Experienced’ Australia

Mithali praised the quality of the Australian team which dismantled India 3-0 in the ODI series that concluded on Sunday.

“It’s an experienced squad in every department of the game. It has a batting line-up that really goes deep, their bowlers are quite disciplined and of course it has a very good fielding squad. We lacked the middle-order partnerships. The middle-order did not click. The bowlers were not as disciplined as they were in South Africa,” said Mithali, recipient of the Grade A Rs. 50 lakh annual contract alongside Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana.

Talking about the contract given to 19 women cricketers, Mithali said: “It is a great decision by the BCCI. When you have the contract in place, players tend to invest more in the game. They would know that they would be paid for their best performance and so they will keep the fitness levels high. It also means that each time you step on the ground you are expected to be a professional. There are a lot of players who come from India interiors and hence, financially, they are not very sound. With the contract system in place every cricketer can hope to play for India and become financially secured.”

Fast bowler Jhulan Goswami agreed on a number of issues with Mithali. She believes that she has recovered well from a foot injury to play the forthcoming Twenty20 Triangular series featuring Australia, England and India.

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