T20 Challenge set to showcase worlds’ best talents

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Three teams to battle out in week-long event in what could be a trial for an Indian league for women

Topping the wish list for India’s women cricketers would be an IPL for them. It could be the biggest boost to the game in India since Harmanpreet Kaur’s unbeaten 171 against England in the 2017 World Cup semifinal.

But, there are questions whether India is quite ready for a league. Would it generate enough interest? Would it be financially viable? Would it attract the corporate? Are there enough local talents to feed multiple teams?

Some of those questions could be answered over the next one week. The Women’s T20 Challenge, which opens at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here on Monday, could be seen as a trial for the real thing.

It isn’t the first time BCCI is organising such an event, though. Last year, there was one match held at Mumbai during the IPL. But, it started at 2 p.m. — not the ideal time for a game in summer.

So, not many people turned up to watch the game though it turned out to be an exciting encounter — the result was decided by the last ball. The timing was far from perfect for television as well.

The BCCI has got it right this time around. Except for one (which starts at 3.30 p.m.), all matches will begin at 7.30 p.m.

And there are more teams, and therefore more matches, too. The pool of foreign players is larger as well, despite the absence of the Australians, who have had to miss a great opportunity because of an issue between the boards of the two countries over a men’s ODI series.

Among the big names from abroad are Danielle Wyatt (England), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka) and Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh). They will join the likes of Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet and Jhulan Goswami.

Mithali, Smrithi and Harmanpreet — who form the terrific trio of Indian batting — will lead the three teams: Velocity, Trailblazers and Supernovas. These women must be determined to prove that they, too, can entertain.

The past five weeks saw full houses for most of Rajasthan Royals’ matches here. It will be interesting to see if the city responds to women’s cricket as enthusiastically as venues like Indore and Guwahati did in recent times.

India’s women cricketers deserve all the support they get. They have worked incredibly hard to reach where they are.

Entry is free.

The teams (from):

Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka), Jemimah Rodrigues, Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand), Mansi Joshi, Natalie Sciver (England), Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Radha Yadav, Sophie Devine (New Zealand), Taniya Bhatia (wicketkeeper). Coach: WV Raman

Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (captain), Bharti Fulmali, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Jasia Akhtar, Jhulan Goswami, R Kalpana (wicketkeeper), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shakera Selman (West Indies), Sophie Ecclestone (England), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Suzie Bates (New Zealand). Coach: Biju George.

Velocity: Mithali Raj (captain), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Danielle Wyatt (England), Devika Vaidya, Ekta Bisht, Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh), Komal Zhanzad, Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma (wicketkeeper), Sushree Dibyadarshini, Veda Krishnamurthy. Coach: Mamatha Maben.

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