The Big Picture
Cricket in April and May for the past 12 years has all been about the glitz and glamour of the Indian Premier League. But last year something really interesting happened. After the progress that Women's cricket has shown in the past two years, there were growing calls from both pundits and current cricketers for an IPL-style T20 league or simply WIPL.
Last year the BCCI organized a one-off T20 between sides' named Trailblazers and Supernovas led by Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur. But this year, the board has gone further to conduct a 4-match T20 series between Trailblazers, Supernovas and the newly formed Velocity- led by Mithali Raj.
You may criticize IPL however you want, but the fact of the matter is such high-pressure leagues played in front of packed crowds, with and against some of the best players in the world helps in the overall development of a cricketer. It helps him soak pressure when under immense scrutiny in front of packed crowds and makes him at least temperamentally ready for the big stage. The league format is off-course not new to Women's cricket and the players who have featured in the leagues such as the Women Big Bash [WBBL] and Kia Super League [KSL] know its importance.
The likes of Daniel Wyatt, Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates know how these tournaments developed their game and why thee full-fledged IPL-style women's league is long overdue.
It (WBBL and KSL) has really contributed to the improvement of the women's game globally, not only with the skill level but also in attracting new fans to the game," New Zealand all-rounder Devine said. "To be able to play alongside players from different countries and in different conditions has been hugely beneficial for my own game." Sophie Devine in an interview to ANI.
But, isn't the richest and the most powerful cricket board taking too long to launch a full-fledged IPL? Closer home, the three captains and the current torch-bearers of Womens cricket- Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur seem to be satisfied with whatever steps that have been taken.
"We need to understand that to start something different, we had to start small and this tournament is a step ahead as last year we had just one game and this year they have added one more team and it's a one-leg tournament. So I think by next year or so we might have a league," said Mithali Raj on the prospect of the future of WIPL.
Whether the time is ripe or is the BCCI taking too long to zero in on WPL is another matter but few will disagree there hasn't been a better time to be a Women cricketer in India. The likes of Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Poonam Yadav, Harmanpreet Kaur followed by the veterans in Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami have taken Women's cricket from obscure and lonely lanes to the hearts of the cricketing folklore. The WIPL will also give India's youngsters a chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Devine, Bates, Taylor, Wyatt, which will help them develop their skills as well as their temperament- one facet that they have found wanting in the recent T20I series and tournaments.
Coming back to the game, the Women's T20 Challenge will kickoff tomorrow at Jaipur with Supernovas taking on Smriti Mandhana's Trailblazers. Last time when these two sides' met, Kaur's Supernovas overcame the Trailblazers by three wickets. But things have changed quite a bit this time around. With the Australian stars not around, the complexion of both sides' have changed and the result of last year will count for nothing when the teams' make their way out to the middle tomorrow.
The Supernovas-led by Harmanpreet Kaur consists of overseas talents like Kiwi all-rounder Steffanie Taylor, Sri Lankan tearaway batter Chamari Athapathu and English all-rounder Natalie Sciver, fast bowler Lea Tahuhu to go along with the Indian stars like opener Jemimah Rodrigues, wrist-spinner Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, and Anuja Patil.
Mandhana's Trailblazers also have a plethora of firepower in their ranks with all-rounders like Steffanie Taylor and Suzie Bates, spinner Sophie Ecclestone to go along with Indian stars like Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Jhulan Goswami.
Where- Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
When- Monday, May 06, 2019, 07:30 PM IST
The wicket at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium has generally dished out totals around 160 in the 2019 IPL. And with the match starting at 7:30, due might become a factor in the later stages of the game.
Smriti Mandhana [c], Dayalan Hemalatha, Suzie Bates, Harleen Deol, Stefanie Taylor, Deepti Sharma, Ravi Kalpana [wk], Shakera Selman, Jhulan Goswami, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sophie Ecclestone
Harmanpreet Kaur [c], Sophie Devine, Chamari Athapaththu, Jemimah Rodrigues, Natalie Sciver, Taniya Bhatiya [wk], Anuja Patil, Lea Tahuhu, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Mansi Joshi