All of these boil down to the need for having a full-fledged Women’s IPL.
At some point or other, most of us would have had the opportunity to experience a big live event. The euphoria, the vibes, and the entire setting of a live program are nothing short of enthralling. One would want to savor it and cherish it for all the action it unfolds, ain’t? Well, add to it a sporting event and the sports enthusiasts are certain to never get enough of it. Something similar to this was the entire atmosphere at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Women’s day in 2020.
The stadium was packed with the vibrancy of almost 87,174 people who were all geared up to witness the Women’s T20 World Cup final. It was a record for the largest crowd present at a women’s sports event in Australia and also the highest for a women’s cricket match globally. Australia lifted the trophy that day but the Indian women too had a lot of positives to look at despite the painful loss.
Going into a little flashback, we are in the year 2017, wherein the Indian women’s cricket team returned from the 50-over World Cup as runners-up. It was the tournament that made everybody stop doing all they were up to and make a notice of their performance.
The time was 3:45 am when these girls returned from the tour and what was intriguing that the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai was filled with thousands of people who were there to welcome the team. Mithali Raj had stated in one of her interviews that the WC 2017 had changed the ways women’s cricket was perceived by our nation.
And while we further aim to take women’s cricket to greater heights, a lot of planning and execution needs to combine their stories so that we script an incredible odyssey. As and when the players face crunch moments at high profile leagues they tend to shape their game better. So when it comes to women’s cricket where are we heading with it?
Indian women players in the foreign leagues
While there are a lot of Men’s leagues that are being played all over the world, the women had just two main options to fall back on then. The first one being the Kia Super League (KSL) of England and the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in Australia. In what pinned hope for better exposures to women cricketers in India, the BCCI’s women’s committee gave the green signal for the cricketers to take part in the overseas T20 league in 2016.
Harmanpreet Kaur thus became the first woman cricketer from India to sign up for the Big Bash League. She had an impressive debut season with Sydney Thunder as she scored 296 runs in 12 innings at an average of 59.20. She also scalped six wickets and became Sydney Thunder’s WBBL player of the tournament.
It then followed the inclusion of Smriti Mandhana in the WBBL who post that became the first Indian cricketer to feature in the Women’s Super League. Though Kaur had received the contract prior to her, Mandhana was the first to make the debut. Displaying her class there, she scored the fastest fifty off 18 balls and then garnered the audacity further by being the first Indian woman to score a ton in the tournament.
The very young Jemimah Rodrigues then signed up Yorkshire Diamonds in 2019 in the Women’s Super League. The explosive Mumbai batter armed her talents better by hitting the fastest century of the tournament. She smashed a 58-ball 112 and broke the record of Smriti Mandhana. All of these class acts are exemplifications of the repertoire that these girls possess.
Now with the introduction of The Hundred tournament in England, which has gone on to fascinate the onlookers owing to its format, we probably have a lot more to watch out for from them and doff our hats at. Smriti Mandhana, all-rounder Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur, and Shafali Verma are the 5 Indians who are taking the charge of the field in the tournament.
And while we are hoping to see a lot of good performances from them, Jemimah has already made sure that she exudes to the world that she is a product of hard work walking onto the park.
Jemimah Rodrigues seizing the moment at The Hundred
Every cricketer seems to have his or her own shares of ebbs and flows. Enduring adversities and working on themselves is probably all they have in their control. Having said that, one still can’t guarantee the performances but the efforts they put rule the proceedings. Jemimah was under the scanner for her form lately. In the home series against the Proteas, she couldn’t reap any rewards and had a lean patch with the bat in the England series too.
But we all know the beauty of time, it changes. Jemimah is blowing the trumpet of her talent in the ongoing The Hundred wherein she has already put up two belligerent shows with the bat. For the Northern Superchargers, she scored a frenetic 92 in the first game and then a 60 in the second match. Everybody then took notice of her and it felt that she cleared the slate that had written things about her form and future.
Now that the Women’s ICC ODI World Cup is on cards, the Indian cricket team would have to put their thinking hats on for the team combination. It rings true that in the ODI format, the top-order has to give flying starts in order to make sure the team is able to put a good total on board. Australia and England are consistently seen scoring 250+ as their top three batters contribute majorly.
With Smriti and Shafali opening for India, Jemimah can be considered for the number three spot ahead of Punam Raut as the latter’s strike rate is a concern for the team. In the upcoming series against Australia, the team could probably try Jemimah at three.
The team needs quick runs and someone who can hold the fort of the middle order to make sure that a competitive total is put on board. India has been struggling in this area and the form of Rodrigues can probably tick that massive mark for the side. Her attacking game can help India design their layout of forming a strong team for the World Cup.
The way ahead for women’s cricket
Cricket seems to be a trait that is inherent in most Indians. It is not too long out of the cradle that the child reaches out to hold a bat. Picture a curly-haired young boy with a bat and I promise you will imagine none other than Sachin Tendulkar. After India won the World Cup in 1983, a dream made a home in Tendulkar’s heart, and then we saw an era of cricket through him.
It is a fact that men’s cricket has more exposure than women’s game right now. The Indian women’s team recently played their first Test match in England after a gap of 7 years recently and it thus portrays the scenario. Probably things would gradually change but the little strides that these girls are taking by featuring in the foreign leagues and also making their impact there are definitely fueling the fire of women’s cricket back here in India.
One cannot deny the fact that women’s cricket is getting more noticed and these players have a big part to play in it. For Mithali Raj, Anjum Chopra, or Jhulan Goswami, this exposure and fame back then wasn’t a thing to think of. But now with things progressing and the demands of the game rising high, it is important that the players get the opportunity to express themselves.
The overseas players, for instance, right from Shabnim Ismail, Laura Wolvaardt, Marizanne Kape, and a lot many others have been constantly playing in these high profile leagues and have upped the ante of their game and evolved into better players. And thus their teams seem to perform comparatively well at the ICC events.
All of these boil down to the need for having a full-fledged Women’s IPL. A lot of prominent names in cricket have emphasized the importance of hosting this tournament in India. Right from Harsha Bhogle, Ravichandran Ashwin, Lisa Sthalekar to Isa Guha have all stressed the big role it would play to bring in more talent from the grass root levels that can further go on to bring laurels for the nation.
The BCCI President Sourav Ganguly too had asserted the staging of a proper women’s IPL. “At the present moment, there are only three teams in the women’s IPL (Women’s T20 Challenge) and I believe that in a couple of years’ time we will be good enough to have a separate IPL with seven teams, eight teams like the franchise-based teams for the women as well,” Ganguly had stated as reported by DNA.
We have come a long way but a long way still awaits us. Watching these girls play at the highest level, there would be a lot of small Mandhanas and Vermas who would be keen to don the Indian blues. If opportunity and talent come together, there is no doubt about a good bond being formed. This bond, however, will further strengthen women’s cricket in India.