Ever since India failed to win the trophy on the big stage, talks have been going on for hosting a T20 tournament like the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Women cricketers. While many have requested the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for conducting an entire league for the betterment, it certainly wouldn’t happen anytime soon. And, swashbuckling India opener Smriti Mandhana has recently backed the thought.

She feels that this is the right time for Women’s IPL as it will definitely help in building a strong squad. It is also known to everyone how Indian Premier League (IPL) has given quality players through the years. Although a four-match Women’s T20 Challenge takes place for the last few years – Supernovas, Velocity, and Trailblazers,  Mandhana opened up about the value of the tournament in building up a strong squad for the future.

“Yeah, I think the kind of performances we’ve had in the last three-four years is great. The average age of the Indian women’s team is 23-24, which means that there are a lot of young players,” said Smriti Mandhana in a podcast on Red Bull’s Decoding Athletes series.

“The league definitely gives a boost to women’s cricket and gives confidence to youngsters. We’ve seen in men’s cricket; debutants are facing 145-150 speed deliveries quite comfortably. You can’t see that they’re nervous on their debut,” she further added. “The league has played a big role in that, and it’s going to help women’s cricket as well. If you really want to get a strong women’s team in India, it’s the right time to get a women’s league.”

However, Smriti Mandhana led Trailblazers won the trophy last year in the UAE whereas the previous two years Harmanpreet Kaur led Supernovas sealed the deal. Meanwhile, Mandhana said that if given a choice, she would like to play for Mumbai Indians.

Smriti Mandhana

Smriti Mandhana with the Trophy. ©BCCI/IPL

“I think at the moment I’m happy to lead Trailblazers. But if given a choice, and because I’m from Maharashtra, so Mumbai probably. But I think all the teams are so good and they look after the players so well. Any team would be amazing for development as a player,” she shared.

However, it was the 2017 ODI World Cup that helped women’s cricket in India earned its due popularity. And since then it’s only increasing. England had defeated India in the final and Mandhana said that they are far ahead of them when it comes to ICC tournaments.

“I think it’s a very good contest every time we play England. I think whenever you’re playing England or Australia you have to be at your best. You have to step up a bit on your mental side more than your skills. We’ve gotten the better of them on many occasions, and they’ve gotten the better of us in the semi-finals in T20 World Cup and the 2017 World Cup final. So I guess we have had an upper hand in the bilaterals but in the world tournaments, they’ve performed better,” Smriti Mandhana expressed.

Post-2017 World Cup, India reached the semi-final of the 2018 ICC World T20 and reached the final of the T20 World Cup where they lost to Australia in March last year. And, the vice-captain of the T20 format believed that they lost the game in the batting powerplay only.

“We all had a chat in the dressing room that a lot of things are going to go down on the day, but we really have to keep looking around, do what we are supposed to do, watch the ball, and get the basics right. Of course, the game didn’t go our way. I think we lost control from probably the first batting powerplay,” concluded Mandhana.

Meanwhile, England all-rounder Ben Stokes and India’s wicketkeeper-batsman KL Rahul have supported this, saying that Women’s IPL needed to have a strong pool of players.

Stokes added: “If you look at where the women’s game has gone to, especially over the last four or five years – I’m very hopeful that there’s a women’s franchise side associated with every men’s franchise side because to be able to grow the women’s game even bigger what better place than to do it out here in India.”

Meanwhile, Punjab Kings captain Rahul too supported Stokes. He said: “I totally agree with Ben. I have been following the Indian women’s team for a few years now and the kind of performances they have been putting up in that last three-four years is amazing. I have seen a lot of young players coming through, a lot of them from Karnataka who always used to practise with us as junior cricketers. Great to see how they are playing. Would love to see Punjab Kings women’s team as well.”

However, the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League is all set to begin on April 9 whereas the Women’s T20 Challenge is likely to take place in May during the IPL Playoffs.

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