Mithali Raj-led IPL Velocity coach Mamatha Maben has stated that women’s cricket needs to cash in on this upsurge that is happening through the Women’s T20 challenge. The former India women’s team skipper has further added that the absence of Australian cricketers in the event is “unfortunate”.
BCCI had hosted a one-off exhibition match last year, involving two teams IPL Supernovas and IPL Trailblazers as a curtain-raiser to the first IPL 2018 Qualifier. The game had some of the biggest names of Women’s cricket - both Indian and foreign players - but the timing of it was a big concern as people didn’t turn up as expected in the sweltering heat of 2 PM.
However, taking a step forward, the BCCI added one more team to the tournament and is set to organise a round-robin tri-series with each team playing each other once before the top two lock horns in the final for the Women’s T20 Challenge Trophy. While Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana will lead the Supernovas and Trailblazers respectively, Mithali Raj will be leading the newest entrant IPL Velocity, which will also have the likes of England’s Danielle Wyatt, New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr, West Indies’ Hayley Matthews to go with Indian star players like Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey, and Sushma Verma. This is, of course, an upgrade, and Velocity’s coach Mamatha Maben feels that Women’s Cricket need to cash in on this upsurge.
“Though it is not full-fledged, it is better than what it was last year,” Maben told SportsCafe in an exclusive interview. “Basically, BCCI is testing the waters and how feasible it is going forward. Depending on the success of this league, I think there will be an encouragement, probably they don’t want to take it faster, or maybe they are not sure about the local talent available. It is not about international talents, because they are in abundance. Hence, it is a step further and god willing, this team will be a good tournament.”
“Currently, I can see steady growth in the number of women’s cricketer participating because the visibility has increased now, but there is a long way to go. We need to cash in on this upsurge and there is a lot of works to be done at the grassroots. All said and done, I can vouch for the fact that there is a lot of interest nowadays and a lot of young girls, even the age of seven and eight, are coming to my academy to take admission,” Maben, who played four Tests and 40 women's one-day internationals, including the 1993 Women's Cricket World Cup in England, added.
Indian women’s cricketers have made significant progress as far as power-hitting goes, with Harmanpreet’s stroke-filled epic of 171 runs against Australia in the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup opening a lot of doors for Indian women cricketers. Smriti Mandhana took it to the new level by scoring a table-topping 421 runs at a strike rate of 174.68 that earned her the player of the tournament award in the Kia Super League in England. However, other cricketers in India haven’t successfully emulated it in their game and Maben feels that with proper coaching and the growth of fitness level, the power-hitting will come to the fore.
“I always believed that it takes at least seven-eight years to get a hang of T20 cricket and in the last two years, they have done well. It stands primarily to the fact that Veda, Smriti, and Harman got exposure in the Big Bash League. Even here, if this league comes forth, then big-hitting will take place because they will train accordingly. Power-hitting is nothing but training accordingly. Isn’t it? When Harman and Smriti went to Australia and got a chance to train accordingly, they grew their game.
“In regards to power-hitting, there are a couple of things to go about it. It is mostly the technicalities of hitting. Once we have high-performance and fitness, our people will become much better at it. It is also about core power, strength and the ability to muscle it. They need training accordingly and that’s the reason why I am so excited about this league. It will help garner a huge amount of interest among the new-age cricketers and they will develop further.”
In what has come as an unfortunate news for the Women’s cricket followers in India, Australian women’s cricketers won’t be a part of this tournament. The likes of Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt and Alyssa Healy, who participated in last year’s competition, wanted to take part in this season’s bigger and grander event, but Cricket Australia revealed that the continued lack of clarity on the BCCI’s part for the schedule of the Australian men's ODI tour of India early next year forced the body to stop their players from participating.
“Australian cricketers are, of course, big draws in any tournament. I am not aware of exact proceedings and why they are not a part of the tournament. I only get to know it from media outlets. We would’ve loved to have them on board, but unfortunately, they are not around,” Maben said.
Jaipur will host all the matches of the tournament, and Star Sports will telecast them Live.
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