Let’s address the elephant in the room first. The Women’s international cricket is finally back to India after a gap of a year - much after the Indian men’s team partook in seven jaw-dropping Test matches and six limited-overs games. And hey, a season of full-throttle IPL as well.
A busy year of cricket that might’ve made you wonder if you are missing something. It would but then again, what is more baffling? The fact that an all-format Indian cricketer playing 25 matches already, battling injuries, jet lag and everything while crying for rest or another all-format cricketer screaming for some game-time, desperately, that's Indian cricket for you!
The latter is, sadly, the Indian women’s team’s sojourn in the last one year where, beyond a showpiece Women’s T20 Challenge in UAE, they had no cricket to look forward to and finally invested themselves in a club tournament in Bangalore and few local tournaments. From that alone, you would have understood the negligence the team has suffered in the last year once COVID called the shots.
Thus, the news of the eves playing against South Africa in a full-fledged series was taken with a lot of positivity and all the fans welcomed the move with open arms. The teams gathered without the squad being announced and when the team was eventually out, one would know the contract extension of the coaches from the leaked sources to selected media houses. That is usual BCCI though. You don’t expect anything better. Hence that can be brushed aside for a while.
But what can’t be shrugged off is the over-optimism of the BCCI to host both the Women’s international series against South Africa and the Senior Inter-State One-dayers concurrently, effectively jeopardising the chances of maximising from the schedule ahead of the next year’s World Cup.
There is a clear sense of logic to this discussion after including the scheduling into mind. The pandemic-ridden world has ensured a bigger squad would be at play during the South Africa series and that takes India’s 30 best players out of the domestic system for a fair amount of time. Without the star presence of the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, and Shafali Verma, effectively, the Senior Inter-State One-dayers lose a bit of its sheen, making things rather dogmatic.
In another era, when the women’s cricketers had a fair bit going for them, at least comparatively, it made complete sense to run both the tournaments concurrently. However, now by doing that, the BCCI is not only devoiding the cricketers a chance to play as much cricket as possible ahead of the 2021 Women’s 50-over World Cup in New Zealand but also ensuring the local hierarchy, which is responsible for creating the pathway players, going for a toss.
There is another question that comes to the mind which is prudent in the context. The regular excuse for the BCCI over the years for not starting a full-fledged Women’s IPL is the lack of talent pool in India, which is fundamentally flawed but going by BCCI’s logic at this moment, you would be left scrambling for stories or how beneficial things would otherwise be. Turns out, that is bereft of any kind of positive outlook for the genre in the sport that deserves better attention.
Just ahead of the Women’s T20 Challenge, Sourav Ganguly had proclamations of intent to arrange multiple Women’s International series against top teams but it turned out it took them another seven months to get one rolling. Players were devoid of partaking in the Women’s Big Bash League for a two-match competition, fairly so, but not backing that up with a proper series was pretty much all the players needed to slip into oblivion.
Thus the absurdness of the scheduling for the two upcoming tournaments strikes home big-time. Beyond the number of talents, Indian women’s cricketers need guidance big-time after being equally neglected by the state teams whose primary focus nowadays seem to be dishing out a team for the sake of it.
Recently, I was watching a state-level Women’s T20 tournament in Bhubaneswar, backed by a Fantasy Sports conglomerate, and the quality of cricket on offer was appalling. The team was gathered just a couple of days before the tournament and only a few players knew how to navigate through the process. The gap was so huge that you would be left wondering how the state cricket association doesn’t even notice a thing.
Thus the state of affairs calls for a deep scrutiny but more importantly, it is the women’s cricketers who deserve better treatment than to be treated as strange bedfellows in the cauldron of Indian cricket. Sourav Ganguly has been truly disappointing since he took over the mantle of BCCI President but if he can actually do his bit for Women’s Cricket, a lot of mismanagement can be forgiven. Having proper planning to give more matches to these cricketers ahead of the 2021 World Cup will be a good start.