CHENNAI: Ahead of the first match of the Women’s T20 Challenge between Supernovas and Trailblazers, both captains — Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana — were asked about what the tournament means to the players and this tournament could be a precursor for a potential full-fledged Women’s IPL in 2023.
Mandhana said that this tournament was always going to be a stepping stone to a Women’s IPL, before adding, “so, we've always tried to put up a good show so we can move towards the women's IPL as soon as we can.” Harmanpreet, on the other hand, said the first step would be to kick start it, adding, “it’s all in the BCCI and whatever decision they have taken so far have been in our best interest and it totally depends on them.”
As far as what the T20 Challenge meant, Mandhana spoke about how Shafali Verma came to the limelight in Jaipur while Harmanpreet said, ”Richa Ghosh and even Pooja Vastrakar, who have tried to prove themselves through this platform."
However, the experienced duo did not shy away from how in such a short tournament it would be difficult to give opportunities to all the uncapped players in the squad. "This is, of course, an Indian Women's T20 Challenge, so we would want our uncapped players to go out there and play something which is very close to international cricket. But two or three matches, I think, is a really less number of matches to give opportunities to everyone, but we all are really going to try to do that," Mandhana had said.
And she was not far off point as what started as an one-off exhibition match in 2018, became a three-team event in 2019 and continued that way since. However, in the four-year span, including the 2022 final between Velocity and Supernovas, there have been just 13 games. In comparison, each team in the Women’s Big Bash League gets to play 14 games in the league stage alone. In the inaugural edition of The Hundred, each team played at least eight games. And that is important for the teams to give any player ample opportunities to show their talent.
Despite that, the way players approach the format since the T20 Challenge came into picture has evolved leaps and bounds and it’s visible in the ongoing edition. Every game, the teams were posting record-breaking totals, if Shafali Verma and Kiran Navgire were clearing the ropes with ease, Sabbineni Meghana and Jemimah Rodrigues were showing off their precision in timing and placements.
“From when it started to see how teams are posting big totals now, I think, you and us, who are watching from outside, are enjoying it… the brand of cricket teams and players are taking, I think a lot has changed,” said Velocity skipper Deepti Sharma on Friday.
As Supernovas beat Velocity in the final to win the their third Women's T20 Challenge title on Sunday, the players have shown more than enough to hope that this could be the last of its kind - a three-team four-match event.