Australia or India? A clash of dates for women’s leagues
Former players spoke out about BCCI not even planning for a camp for women cricketers with the women’s 50 over World Cup 6 months away.Updated: Aug 04, 2020 07:56 IST
In July, as the possibility of the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) being shifted to the UAE was becoming clearer by the day, there was a growing clamour about women’s cricket getting the short shrift. Former players spoke out about BCCI not even planning for a camp for women cricketers with the women’s 50 over World Cup 6 months away.
That concern was addressed when BCCI announced that the Women’s T20 Challenge, which has been happening since 2018, will take place in the UAE alongside IPL, scheduled to be held from September 19 to November 10. The women’s tournament features three teams who play four matches. For women’s national cricketers, for whom the last tournament was the T20 World Cup in February where they made a exhilarating run to the final, this was welcome news.
“I’m thrilled finally there is some light in the uncertainty and cricket is happening,” said Mithali Raj, who captains the ODI team. “I am happy that BCCI has not only announced Women’s T20 challenge but also one camp and two series. All this exposure will help the team prepare well for the 2021 World Cup.”
Yet, the dates of the women’s T20 Challenge clashes with what is undoubtedly the biggest cricket league for the women’s game right now, the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in Australia, which runs from October 17 to November 29. The player of the final from the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup, Australia’s Alyssa Healy, criticised the move on Twitter. “So, the Indian players who’ve already signed wbbl contracts will do what? And all the international marquee players that will be in aus for wbbl? Good luck with it,” wrote.
New Zealand veteran Suzie Bates agreed. Bates tweeted: “What a huge shame for both the WBBL and WIPL competitions there is a clash.”
In 2019, three players Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues were on the radar of the WBBL teams but they did not play as the dates clashed with India’s tour of West Indies. This year too no Indian is likely to play in the WBBL. “Two WBBL teams had sought no objection certificate from BCCI to sign Kaur as well as Mandhana for the upcoming season. It’s unlikely there will be any movement on that now, as the T20 Challenge dates are clashing with WBBL. Also, one has to bear in mind quarantine rules in Australia,” a BCCI official said. It was reliably learnt there was also interest amongst WBBL teams in roping in World Cup star Shafali Verma and all-rounder Deepti Sharma, but no formal offer has been made yet. According to a cricket.com.au report from July, no Indian player has a WBBL contract. The only Asian to have a contract is Pakistan’s Nida Dar.
The T20 Challenge started in 2018 with two teams and in 2019 was increased to three, and was held in May, which made it possible for players to play for both the Indian league and the WBBL in September-October. In 2019, nine foreign players were part of both the T20 Challenge and the WBBL, including Healy and Bates. In 2019 there were 10 outstation players who played in both tournaments.
“The BCCI is slowly building towards a full-fledged women’s IPL. Therefore, it is important the process is not halted. Usually, the league would have taken place around April or May but because of pandemic we are having it at this time of the year,” said Raj, who last played for India in November 2019 against West Indies.
Former India captain Anjum Chopra said it’s only fair that women will start playing along with the men’s teams. “The Indian women’s cricketers have not played a game since the T20 World Cup. Now, if they are getting a chance to play, we should welcome that. If suppose there would have been only the men’s IPL, would that have been fair?” Chopra said. “I understand Healy’s concern but these are not normal times. No cricket has been played by both the men’s and women’s teams for a long time.”
Sulakshana Naik, former India wicketkeeper, felt that not too many players will miss out because of the clash of dates.
“You’re an Indian and you have to play all your Indian tournaments. This is more important. Maybe the 4-5 Australian players will miss it. They were not there last year also. It’s not going to make a lot of difference. Other foreign players will hopefully play this tournament,” Naik said. “It’s very important that all countries start playing. They have to find a new way, a new normal out of this situation and start moving on.”