Women’s T20 Challenge: Top stars to battle it out in extravaganza

The week-long tourney could be seen as an experiment for a possible women’s IPL.

Mithali Raj, captain of the Velocity team, at a nets session at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Sunday. Photo: V. V. Krishnan

Topping the wish list for India’s women cricketers would be an Indian Premier League for them. It could be the biggest boost to the women’s cricket in India since Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171 not-out against Australia in the 2017 World Cup semifinal.

But is India quite ready for a league? Will it generate enough interest? Will it be financially viable? Will it attract corporate sponsorship and are there enough local talents to feed multiple teams? Some of those questions could be answered over the next one week. The Women’s T20 Challenge, which opens at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here on Monday, could be seen as a trial for the real thing.

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It isn’t the first time the BCCI is organising such an event, though. Last year, there was one match held at Mumbai during the IPL. But, it started at 2 pm — not the ideal time for a game in hot summer.

So, not many people turned up to watch the game even though it turned out to be an exciting contest, decided on the last ball. The timing was hardly perfect for television either.

More suitable timings

The BCCI has got it right this time around, though. Except for one match, which begins at 3.30 pm, all matches will begin at 7.30 pm.

And there are more teams, and therefore, more matches, too. The pool of foreign players is larger as well despite the absence of the Australians who have had to miss a great opportunity because of an issue between the boards of the two countries over a men’s ODI series.

Read | Overseas players keen on women's IPL

Among the big names from abroad are Danielle Wyatt (England), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka) and Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh). They will join virtually the who-is-who of Indian women’s cricket — like Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet and Jhulan Goswami.

Mithali, Smrithi and Harmanpreet — who form the terrific trio of Indian batting — will lead the three teams: Velocity, Trailblazers and Supernovas. These women must be determined to prove that just like men in the IPL, they can entertain, too.

The past five weeks had seen full houses to watch most of Rajasthan Royals’ matches here. It will be interesting to see if the city responds to women’s cricket as enthusiastically as venues like Indore and Guwahati have in recent times. India’s cricket-playing women deserve all the support they can get. They have worked incredibly hard to reach where they are.

Entry is free for all the contests.

The teams (from)

Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka), Jemimah Rodrigues, Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand), Mansi Joshi, Natalie Sciver (England), Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Radha Yadav, Sophie Devine (New Zealand), Taniya Bhatia (wk). Coach: W. V. Raman

Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (c), Bharti Fulmali, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Jasia Akhtar, Jhulan Goswami, R. Kalpana (wk), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shakera Selman (West Indies), Sophie Ecclestone (England), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Suzie Bates (New Zealand). Coach: Biju George.

Velocity: Mithali Raj (c), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Danielle Wyatt (England), Devika Vaidya, Ekta Bisht, Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh), Komal Zhanzad, Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma (wk), Sushree Dibyadarshini, Veda Krishnamurthy. Coach: Mamatha Maben.


The schedule

May 6: Supernovas vs Trailblazers

May 8: Trailblazers vs Velocity

May 9: Supernovas vs Velocity

May 11: Final — First-placed team vs second-placed team.

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