Jay Shah: 'We are working towards an IPL-style league for women'
BCCI secretary Jay Shah has revealed that an IPL-style league for women is in the pipelines.
In 2006, the BCCI took direct control of women's cricket in India. The change did not have much effect on the ground. Even though the Indian women's team made the finals of the 2017 ODI World Cup in England and then repeated the feat at the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, the ground reality of women's cricket in the country remains a story of little money and few avenues. Even though a pay hike in 2018 improved conditions for the top players, women cricketers have no opportunity to play the game competitively at the school, university or club level. At the state level, there's no uniform structure in place for age group cricket. Even the national team, after their 2020 T20 final appearance, went a whole year without a single game; though this was the year the pandemic struck, the men's national team got to play, and the IPL went ahead as well. That's the other big thing lacking in India for women -there's no franchise league. England has the 100, Australia the Women's Big Bash League, but the board that hosts the world's most successful T20 league does not have a tournament for women.
Why do these yawning gaps still exist between the men's and women's game? And are there any plans to close the gap? BCCI secretary Jay Shah spoke in detail about these issues and more in an interview.
With so much time lost to the pandemic and not many international tournaments happening for women after they reached the T20 World Cup final, do you think the BCCI could have organised more tours?
To have a tournament in the middle of a pandemic is a serious risk and at no point did BCCI want to jeopardise the health and safety of the players. Also, every state had different rules and restrictions to host outdoor sporting activities. States with fewer figures opened up early while some other states understandably took time.
Once the vaccination began to roll out, we did not look back. We had prioritized setting up women’s FTP and as a result, organised back-to-back tours of England and Australia to make up for the time we lost due to pandemic-enforced restrictions. The team will now have a preparatory camp and will travel to New Zealand (for the 2022 ODI World Cup).
The BCCI recently approved five-day Test matches for the women. When do we see more five-day Tests being scheduled the India team?
At present England and Australia are the only two major teams that play red-ball cricket in women’s cricket. We have made a start and will look to capitalise on this. We also played a historic pink-ball Test against Australia, and our girls dominated the Test although it was their first outing with the pink ball. The number of Test matches can go up as we have more international teams taking part in the red-ball format.
Do you think a restructured domestic system is the need of the hour with the planning of U-16 tournaments for women and multi-day cricket making a comeback from the next season?
The domestic structure is tweaked to suit the needs and demands of our national team and is done keeping in mind the marquee events of the year. For instance, the push will be on the 50-over format as we have the 50-over World Cup coming up shortly in New Zealand in March. Only two teams currently play the multi-day format as most teams concentrate on white-ball cricket since the marquee ICC events are in the white-ball format. We have the ICC Men’s Test Championship but there is no such event for women.
This year a lot of former India women cricketers did level II coaching courses from the National Cricket Academy (NCA). Does the BCCI plan to engage more women coaches?
The NCA conducted two fast track Level 2 Courses for international cricketers. In a first-of-its-kind initiative, a 7-week series of continuous professional development seminars for women coaches across the country were conducted and we had 24 BCCI Level 2 certified coaches and former India cricketers with BCCI level 1 certifications attending it. We definitely intend to have more women coaches and NCA has been taking steps to align our coaches and coaching programme. Through India A and Women’s T20 Challenge, our coaches will get the much-needed exposure and experience.
In the recently conducted challengers Trophy, four teams took part and there were impressive performances. Do you think a T20 league on the lines of WBBL can be held soon in India?
The addition of the fourth team in the Challengers Trophy was done to provide more options to our selectors and widen our talent pool. If you would have noticed, our senior, established, stars were not picked, and the focus was on juniors as we wanted to give them more match time and test them under real-match situations. There is no doubt that we need a strong bench and capable replacements.
The women’s T20 Challenge has drawn a huge interest among the fans and that is an encouraging sign. We all want a league like IPL for our women cricketers, but it is not just about putting together three or four teams and announcing the launch of a women’s IPL league. There are a lot of factors that come into play like a dedicated window, availability of international stars and bilateral commitments of member boards to name a few. We are exploring all our options and working towards organising a similar league for our female players in future.
Players like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur have been very vocal about India having its own T20 league and helping overhaul the standard of the game in India.
Having a league similar to the IPL will surely benefit our cricketers as they will get to play alongside international stars. Other than Smriti and Harmanpreet, other Indian team women cricketers did well in leagues like The Hundred and WBBL. Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma and Poonam Yadav are all sought-after players and role models in India.
Their stint will definitely help them grow in confidence.
Do you think there is a need for creating a separate women’s wing or committee within the BCCI and NCA?
We do have teams and resources that look into women’s cricket, and we have our processes and protocols set. If you see our working style, our operations and logistics do not change, be it a women’s tournament or a men’s. It is because of this process that BCCI is able to conduct 2000 games in a season right from age groups to senior-level without any major hiccups. The NCA does an excellent job at various levels, and they conduct U-19, U-23 or women’s camps seamlessly.
The current scenario demands the creation of bio-bubbles and we have managed to put domestic cricket back on track both for men’s and women’s thanks to our well laid out health and safety protocols and guidelines.
In all probability, players like Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami will retire after this World Cup. Would you like to see them in administrative roles?
I will be very pleased if both Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami take up administrative roles or even coaching roles post their playing career. They have had long and very successful careers and have seen the transformation of the team. They have both been fantastic leaders and ambassadors of the game. The BCCI will definitely utilize their services but at the moment we want them to prepare well for the upcoming World Cup.
The BCCI did raise match fees of domestic women cricketers a few months ago. Do you think there is a need to re-look at it and raise the amount even more as women play just two formats?
At the age group level, the match fee has been raised by nearly 100 per cent. Earlier the U-16 and U-19 girls would get ₹5,500 per match, which has now been revised to ₹10,000. At the senior level, the match fees have been revised to ₹20,000 from 12,500.
At the end of every season, we conduct a captain and coaches’ seminar, where we look back at the season and share feedback. Similarly, we have a committee to look into compensation and match fees and these points are discussed in the Apex Council Meeting and we also have a player representative attending it. We will go by the recommendations of the committee and the decisions made in the Apex Council Meeting.