It’s time for a women’s IPL — it’ll grow the game and churn out talented, ‘ready’ players
Indian women’s cricket has grown in stature & popularity, but BCCI only organizes 4 exhibition matches alongside IPL, while Australia & NZ have popular T20 leagues.
When Jemimah Rodrigues and Smriti Mandhana walked out to open the batting in the first ODI against South Africa at Lucknow’s Atal Bihar Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium on 7 March, it was the Indian women’s cricket team’s first assignment since its defeat in the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia on 8 March 2020.
The last time the team played the ODI format was in November 2019, and between the lockdown and now, the cricketers had played at most three T20 matches against high-level competition — the Women’s T20 Challenge that runs alongside the Indian Premier League play-offs.
The team’s head coach and former opening batsman for the men’s team W.V. Raman also cited this gap as a major reason for his players lacking the intensity and match fitness needed to perform, as they went on to lose the ODI series 4-1 to South Africa.
Contrast that with the men’s team. Since the pandemic struck the world, the men have played a full-fledged IPL in the UAE between September and November, then travelled to Australia for a full tour, and are currently hosting England for another full tour.
So, why doesn’t the BCCI begin a women’s IPL? Why is it that even after 13 editions of the world’s premier T20 franchise cricket tournament, the BCCI is only testing waters for a women’s equivalent with a handful of matches every year?
These are fair questions that many, not least India’s former women cricketers, keep asking. Speaking to ThePrint, former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni said she had been advocating for a women’s IPL for the last seven or eight years, pointing to the fact that the men’s team seems to be overflowing with IPL-bred talents who are ready to take on all comers in any format.
Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Shreyas Iyer or Yuzvendra Chahal — all of them were exciting domestic players who found a big stage to perform on in the IPL, launching their careers towards the international game.
Even in the ongoing T20 series against England, five-time champions Mumbai Indians have given the national team Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, who have both announced their arrival with impactful half-centuries.
Surely, there’s a need for an IPL-equivalent tournament in the women’s game in India, which would not only help the cricketers gain exposure and experience, but expand the talent pool, Kulkarni said.
“I have been saying for the last 7-8 years — we need a women’s IPL. The league also gives you a larger pool of players to choose from for the national team, simply because players are getting that level of exposure,” she said.
“Look at what the men’s IPL has done for the Indian team… It has given it so many players, and the confidence with which they’re coming out is because they’re getting to play in front of huge crowds in the IPL which trains them for the national team. Plus, you’re rubbing shoulders with international players in the dressing room. You learn so much. The same can happen for women’s cricket,” the former India captain added.
The reason, Kulkarni believes, is that there’s a belief in the BCCI that there are not enough talented players for a full-length IPL to be organised.
“While eight teams might be difficult to start with, we’ve to start with four or five teams,” she says. “I don’t think there’s that much of a lack of talent, because the current lot of women players watch a lot of men’s cricket, play fearless shots, and are not scared of getting out.”
ThePrint made several attempts to reach the BCCI for a comment through email, Twitter and its media managers, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.