The debut of The Hundred last year was hailed as a revolutionary moment for cricket as it aimed to redefine the sport and bridge the divide between male and female cricketers.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) didn’t allow India’s male cricketers to play the 100-ball tournament in the U.K., but five Indian women did manage to participate. And they excelled, too: Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Shafali Verma made useful contributions with the bat, while all-rounder Deepti Sharma stood out with bat and ball.
For the second season, however, only three Indian players – Jemimah, Smriti and Deepti – made the cut.
Deepti had to warm the bench for Birmingham Phoenix, while Jemimah played just a couple of games for Northern Superchargers – she scored a half-century in the first match – before being ruled out with an injury. Smriti, returning for her second season with Southern Brave, scored 211 runs in eight innings.
The value of the tournament goes beyond just the runs and the wickets. One of the tangible benefits seems to be the rise in popularity of white-ball cricket in the U.K.
“In the U.K., people watch a lot of red-ball cricket, so I think The Hundred has changed the way people look at white-ball cricket. To see huge crowds turning up for almost every game was amazing. England is one of the best countries to play cricket in and The Hundred is changing a lot of things for them in terms of white-ball cricket,” Smriti said during the tournament.
Rise in standards
More importantly – from the players’ point of view – the tournament helped them enhance their skills and strategy. Jemimah had earlier explained to Sportstar that playing with many international players regularly exposed her and other compatriots to the tactics players from different countries adopt in handling crunch situations. “Those learnings helped,” she said.
In the last few years, Indians have also participated in other overseas leagues such as The Women’s Big Bash League, and the now-defunct Kia Super League. And they have had an impact on the Indian team’s performances in T20s. The team reached the final of the World Cup in 2020 and made it to the final of the Commonwealth Games this year.
“This team has been playing T20 cricket for a long time and over the last few years, they have been playing in overseas conditions regularly – thanks to the [Women’s Big Bash League], The Hundred and other leagues. So, those experiences have helped the players immensely,” India’s legendary fast bowler Jhulan Goswami said.
Many in the cricketing fraternity believe that by allowing players to play in the overseas leagues, the BCCI has helped women cricketers adopt global standards. “The players have matured over the last few years and the youngsters now know how to approach each and every situation,” Goswami said. The BCCI plans to host the inaugural edition of the Women’s Indian Premier League in March next year. Once the tournament begins, it is possible that India’s female cricketers, like their male counterparts, will be barred from participating in overseas competitions. But that’s for another day. For now, it’s the overseas leagues that are doing India a world of good.
Indians in The Hundred
|Smriti Mandhana||8||211||57 n.o.||30.14||151.79|
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