Former India all-rounders bat for widening base before full-fledged Women’s IPL

Ahead of the Women's T20 Challenger, former India all-rounders Shantha Rangaswamy and Shubhangi Kulkarni have called on the BCCI to help widen the talent pool and raise the profile of women's cricket in the country.

From left: Captains Mithali Raj (Velocity) Harmanpreet Kaur (Supernovas) and Smriti Mandhana (Traiblazers) at the press meet ahead of the BCCI's Women's T20 Challenge in Jaipur.   -  Rohit Jain Paras

Former India all-rounders Shantha Rangaswamy and Shubhangi Kulkarni have lauded the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for staging a Women's T20 Challenger, but stressed the need for widening the base to conduct a full-fledged Indian Premier League style-league.

The crowd presence during the one-off exhibition match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai last year was thin, partly because the game had a 2 p.m. start. Now, in its second year, the matches will start at 7.30 p.m. - except the second game which will start at 3.30 p.m. Three teams will square up against each other in a round-robin league, with all the games to be played at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur.

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"After the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, the expectancy level has increased. We need to appreciate the move of all those who have planned this but a lot of preparatory work that needs to be done has still not seen the light of the day," said Rangaswamy, Indian women cricket’s first captain.

"When you write a novel, you write a preface, sometimes an epilogue and in between an actual story will be there. This is an attempt to write the preface - in the sense a lot more needs to be done before. What is more important? The base should widen,” she said.

According to Kulkarni, secretary of the erstwhile Women’s Cricket Association, “If you see how the World (Women's) T20 2018 went in the West Indies, the teams did very well. It was a very competitive tournament. Besides the girls being ready for the IPL, it will be raising the profile of women’s cricket. More players will get an opportunity to play. The selectors will get to watch more players.”

The league will see the participation of 12 overseas players, with each team having four players.

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“There will be more Indian players playing with the foreign players. I’m sure that will help to enhance the standard of Indian players also. Besides, it will be raising the profile of women’s cricket. I think basically the foreign players will help our Indian players to get better, which will eventually help our team,” Kulkarni said.

Referring to the impact of foreign players in the IPL, Rangaswamy said, “Look at men’s IPL, especially this year. If you take out the foreign players then much of the sheen is gone. You take Sunrisers Hyderabad (David Warner and Jonny Bairstow have left) and Rajasthan Royals (Steve Smith has left), they are finding it difficult to reach the three-figure mark. IPL has lost its sheen when some of their foreign players have gone back."

"Likewise, we have to involve more international players to make the tournament (women’s league) big. Once we start calling foreign players, they will notice the talent of our players and they will be asked to go there (Women’s Big Bash and Kia Super League) and play.”

However, the most notable absentees are the high-profile Australians, who have been omitted due to an administrative communication breakdown.

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“It would have been great to have them (Australians). I mean they are exceptional players and the league would be better with the addition of those players. They are world-class players in women’s cricket so obviously it would have been great to have them as part of this league,” Kulkarni, a veteran of 19 Tests and 27 One-Day Internationals, said.

“It’s a good move that BCCI brought in more players this time and if Aussies don’t come, it’s their loss,” Rangaswamy said, but added, “Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry are big names. If they had come maybe it could have added to the value.”

Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana will be leading the teams that possess talent from across the globe.

(The full story was done by ANI news agency)