Sudha Shah believes women's T20 league will have takers

The former India coach feels that the way Indian cricketers are performing; the spectators will soon be drawn to the grounds.

Sudha Shah during the launch event of the Indian Bank Trophy in Chennai.   -  Special Arrangement

Every time there is a conversation on an Indian Premier League (IPL)-style tournament for women cricketers, the house appears divided. While a section believes that the women cricketers — who have become household names — deserve a league of their own, the other half are of the opinion that the time may not be right for such a tournament yet.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), however, tested the waters by organising an exhibition T20 match for the women cricketers before the IPL playoffs this season. While the cricketers — both Indian and foreigners — enjoyed their moments on the field, a poor turnout raised a big question over the possibility of such a league in the future.

Former India women’s team cricketer and erstwhile coach, Sudha Shah, however, believes that the way Indian cricketers are performing; the spectators will soon hit the ground.

Read: New beginning for TN’s women cricketers

“This was the first time. Hopefully, the interest and popularity will grow. To be honest, I did not expect the crowd. But the way, the girls like Harmanpreet (Kaur) and Smriti (Mandhana) are playing, I am sure the spectators will come in,” Shah told Sportstar, at the sidelines of the launch event of the Indian Bank Trophy.

She even drew reference to the Women’s T20 World Cup in England in 2010 — where the side reached the semifinal under her coaching. “Even when we had the T20 World Cup in England, the semifinals and finals, we played before the men’s matches. There too it was the same thing. Only towards the end, spectators came in,” Shah said.

The Chennai-based coach will be conferred the BCCI prestigious C.K. Nayudu award for lifetime achievement next week, and Shah feels that it is important for women cricketers to get recognition. “Women’s cricket has to be recognised. The players are hard working and talented. It is good that they are getting recognised now. The perspective is changing now. We have been getting 100-plus kids for training. Right from the age group of six or seven, the parents are bringing the kids. That way, the domestic structure will strengthen,” she said.

She also believes that the state associations should introduce regular leagues for the women cricketers to help the game grow. “Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh have a lot of league tournaments across age groups, and all states should start now. Practising at the nets is okay, but more matches you play, the better it is,” Shah said, welcoming BCCI’s decision to start more tournaments. “The BCCI has started the U-23 level tournament, and the numbers are improving. The more they play, better it is for the cricketers,” she pointed out.

Even though they are still making their presence felt, there are speculations on what would happen to the Indian team once the seniors, Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj quit. How smooth will that transition be?

Shah, however, is confident. “Luckily for us, we have a bunch of talented youngsters, who will step up. The future is bright for women’s cricket now. With more matches and exposure, we will do better,” she stated.

With the time, things have also improved for the women cricketers. From being left behind, the cricketers have been able to become household names. And with that, career opportunities have also improved.

“When we were playing, we hardly had any job opportunities. But now, you have everything — from a video analyst, to a coach, an umpire, match referees — there are lot of opportunities. When I was coaching the Indian team, there was nobody willing to do the job. There was no money also at that point of time. Now, anyone can make it a profession,” Shah said.