Since its starting in 2018, the Women’s T20 Challenge has witnessed only two sides to have won the trophy. Supernovas had won the trophy two consecutive times in 2018 and 2019, and this year they toppled the Velocity by 4 runs on their way to the 3rd one. Despite having a shortlived life of four years, the Women’s T20 Challenge had its fair share of controversies. From hosting one match at 2.30 p.m in 2018 to scrapping it in 2020 on the pretext of Covid, it provided a launching pad for the Women’s IPL, which was supposed to be initiated after India’s 2017 World Cup performance.
However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has shortlisted two windows to host a franchise-model T20 league for women from 2023. It is understood that on the sidelines of the IPL play-offs, the BCCI had discussions with the stakeholders with March 2023 being looked at as an ideal window to host the tournament. The BCCI is understood to have had discussions with Cricket Australia and England and Wales Cricket Board counterparts and is likely to ask the International Cricket Council (ICC) to create a separate window for its new league in the month of March.
It was often argued that India’s domestic cricket doesn’t have enough depth to have a full-fledged Women IPL even with the 6 teams. This is one of the reasons that BCCI has been post-ponding things even after India’s success in the World Cups from 2017 to 2022. After the debacle of the 2016 T20 World Cup at home, India had lost only two matches in the next two T20 World Cups. While India was undefeated in the group stage before they lost to England in the semi-final in 2018 and Australia thrashed them in front of a record-breaking crowd in the 2020 Final, the myths of lack of talent and ‘a not successful side’ prevailed.
S Meghana performs well in the Women’s T20 Challenge. (Image: Twitter/IPL)
BCCI’s inexpensive behaviours toward the Women’s Cricket mean most of the domestic matches were not televised. Though they televised some of the matches in the previous years, the Senior T-20 league, the elite domestic championship went unnoticed by the fans. The minuscule number of international matches that India played after the 2020 World Cup, did not go in their favour. And in the context of those defeats, the arguments resurfaced that the Indian women’s side neither has enough success nor the depth to organize Women IPL.
Even if we look at the 2022 Women T-20 Challenge the numbers have improved, compared to the last editions. Out of 8 innings, 7 innings have witnessed the score access of 150 runs mark. Against Velocity, TrailBlazers put up 190 runs in their allotted 20 overs, the highest in 4 years. A total of 13 uncapped players have been selected for the 3 sides, most in any year. Indian management came under the scanner for not selecting S Meghna in the final 15-member squad in the 2022 ODI World Cup.
In absence of stalwarts like Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, and Shikha Pandey, Meghna scored a half-century in her debut match in the Women’s T-20 Challenge. With 7 fours and 4 sixes, her 47 balls 73 was well supported by Jemimah Rodrigues 44 ball 66. Jemimah has earned praises in the shorter format of the game while playing in the overseas league.
Kiran Navgire impresses everyone with her stunning show. (Image: Twitter/IPL)
KP Navgire was the highest run-getter in the Senior T20 Tournament . she scored more than 500 runs for Nagaland after moving in from Mumbai. She is the only female cricketer to score 150 runs in a T-20 match. Though the spectators missed her innings, they witnessed her 34-ball 69 against Blazers. She started her innings with a flawless six and continued to hit 4 more. Her effortless hitting ability gives hope to the Indian batting order which lacked hard-hitting pinch hitters apart from Shafali Verma. Shafali Verma who took the world cricket by storm was also spotted in the Women’s T20 Challange in 2019 at 15 years old. Later that year, she became the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in an international match, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar.
Supernovas won the 2022 edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge. (Image: Twitter/IPL)
The attendance in the matches also increased. From the handful of spectators along with crows and dogs in 2018, the final witnessed more than 8000 crowds in Pune in 2022. The numbers also increased on the online platforms as well. Now, if we look at the WBBL, within its course turns out to be a high success for Australian Women’s Cricket. It helped them to nurture the younger players who came out direct from WNSL. Younger players like Phoebe Litchfield, and Stella Campbell, got the chance to rub shoulders with the players not only from Australia but also from players like Sophie Devine or Heather Knight.
Apart from that, players from Associate nations like Kim Grath or Sornnarin Tippoch too joined. So, Big Bash has transcended the barrier to being a domestic league and evolved as a global league as well.
In a recent conversation with ICC, former Australia player Lisa Sthalekar pointed out how WBBL changed the momentum in Australian Women’s Cricket. Younger players like Ash Gardner, Sophie Molineux, Tayla Vlaemnic, and Georgia Wareham got exposed to that competition which, worked as the pathway to the Australian team. Ashleigh Gardner, who became the player of the final of the 2018 World Cup, came as a Young Gun of WBBL 02 (2016-17), having scored 414 runs with the bat and claiming ten wickets with the ball throughout the season for Sydney Sixers. With the ongoing talks about Women IPL from 2023, we just hope Women’s IPL will work in favour development of Women’s Cricket in India as WBBL did for Australia.