This will be a win-win situation for the Indian women cricketers. While the men’s team remains consigned to the T20 Indian Premier League, BCCI’s green signal to women for participation in Australia’s T20 Women’s Big Bash (WBBL) League will open new opportunities for the women’s team. While it has only been a few days since the BCCI’s nod, franchises in Australia have already started zeroing in on Indian players.
Nick Cummins, General Manager Sydney Thunders, the defending champions, told Hindustan Times from Sydney: “It’s a fantastic development that the Indians will now be part of WBBL. I don’t think we could call the WBBL the leading women’s T20 league in the world without the Indians in it. The Indian women showed during their last tour to Australia that they have some world-class players and their participation can only make the WBBL better. We have a solo slot for an overseas cricketer and we have an Indian player in mind for that.”
It has been learnt that all-rounder Harmanpreet Bhullar, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy will be the most sought-after Indian players apart from captain Mithali Raj and experienced pacer Jhulan Goswami.
Harmanpreet , said, “Having an IPL-type of league in India would have been superb, but till the time that doesn’t happen, it would be wonderful to go out and participate in international leagues like the one in Australia. We were in Australia earlier this year playing that series when the first WBBL had just ended. We got to know brilliant stuff about the tournament from Australian cricketers like Meg Lanning and Elysse Perry. We do not get enough cricket to play otherwise, so this would be the best exposure for us.”
The Moga-born Harmanpreet, known for her T20 skills has been the most prolific cricketer for the Indian cricket team in recent years. Although Indian players play very limited international cricket, Harmanpreet has been a proven match winner. Her big-hitting ability on the bigger Aussie grounds was apparent during that series and her records will make most teams reach out to her even though she confirmed to Hindustan Times that no initial contact has been made to her by any franchise.
“It’s only in winters so we are hopeful of getting contracts,” she said. Mandhana and Krishnamurthy too impressed with their stroke-play in Australia and were largely instrumental in India winning the T20 series on that tour. Every franchise has two slots for overseas players, so the teams will have to be mindful of their needs and requirements.
It may be recalled that another franchise, Melbourne Stars had contacted Mithali, Jhulan and a few others for the inaugural edition last year but they couldn’t go owing to the domestic cricket season clashing with the WBBL, plus the BCCI being unsure whether to give permission or not.
Finally last week the Women’s Cricket Committee of the BCCI made the decision. The BCCI Chief Anurag Thakur is excited at the prospect and sees this as an opportunity to plan big: “The BCCI wants to see Indian women cricket grow and become No.1 by 2020. We have asked the Women’s Working Committee to give us recommendations in July for next five years,” Thakur said.
“The idea of coming up with its own T20 league is definitely floating around. If the Women Working Committee recommends to the BCCI about such a league will help our women to grow and become better, we would definitely consider this. We could even come up with our own T20 League for women on the lines of IPL so there could be lots happening on that front,” he added.
And will Indian men also get a chance to play in foreign T20 leagues like the Big Bash? The answer: “Not yet. We are more than happy to allow men to play in the English county tournament and other longer format tournaments if they aren’t clashing with our first-class season. And that’s where it stands.”
Since Thakur became the BCCI secretary, he has incorporated great changes in regard to betterment of women cricket. Indian women not only fetched central contracts from BCCI but also got bonus money after they won a home-series against New Zealand in 2015. When asked, why Indian women were cricketers not granted permission for participation in WBBL-I, Thakur said, “It was a start for a T20 league like WBBL in 2015. The players were contacted at last minute for playing in the WBBL. At the same time we had big events like ODI and T20 series in Australia, followed up by T20 World Championship in India. The BCCI wants the women cricketers to get best exposure and growth.”
“Cricket Australia (CA) contacted BCCI for Indian women’s participation. We discussed it among the members and thought this will be a good exposure and opportunity for women players. BCCI was more than happy to give a go ahead for WBBL-II.” He also informed that the BCCI will discuss further plans with ECB and Cricket Australia regarding participation in leagues on the sidelines of ICC meeting in Scotland end of this month. England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will roll out a league of their own T20 Women’s Super League, due to kickstart in July 2016.