Starting as a one-match event in 2018, the Women’s T20 Challenge is perhaps in its final edition in 2022 as a three-team four-match tournament, with talks of a Women’s IPL from 2023. Featuring Supernovas, Trailblazers and Velocity, the tournament kicks off in Pune on Monday.
The tournament did not take place in 2021 due to the pandemic, even as the men’s IPL season was held in two halves, first in India and then a postponed-leg in the UAE. The last time the Women’s T20 Challenge happened was in 2020, when the three teams played in Sharjah in a similar format.
While the merits of having such a small tournament despite the vast availability of resources to the BCCI is questionable, it is still a chance for India’s best domestic talent to rub shoulders with some superstar cricketers – Indian and overseas – in a competitive environment. The fact is that the tournament has remained a four-match affair despite the volume of cricket played by a majority of the selected cricketers is nowhere near enough.
The BCCI has indicated that the Women’s IPL is on the cards from 2023, pending approval at the Annual General Meeting. If that indeed is the case, then the Women’s T20 Challenge in this current avatar will be played for the last time in 2022. For the sake of Indian cricket, one hopes that certainly is the case.
The 2022 edition will open with a match between Trailblazers (who won the tournament last time) and Supernovas on Monday, followed by a game between Supernovas and Velocity (Tuesday) and Velocity and Trailblazers on May 26. The top two teams will feature in the final on May 28.
But, as the three captains – Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma – have mentioned, it is an opportunity nevertheless for some young cricketers to showcase their abilities. It is after all from this event that Shafali Verma shot to the limelight.
Given the fact that not one of the 106 matches in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy recently was broadcast or live-streamed, the Women’s T20 Challenge gives a chance to catch a glimpse of the players who, statistically, had great tournaments.
Nagaland’s Kiran Navgire, Maharashtra’s Maya Sonawane and Aarti Kedar, Kerala’s Keerthi James are among the uncapped talents to keep an eye out on. Velocity captain Deepti has already reserved high praise for the power-hitting from Navgire, who could be part of an explosive batting unit with Shafali. Spinner Sonawane’s unique action, that we witnessed during the Challenger Trophy last season, is bound to catch attention.
There will also be plenty riding on this tournament for Jemimah Rodrigues, who was left out of the World Cup squad but has since been in great form for Mumbai in the Women’s T20 Trophy. Playing under Mandhana in the Trailblazers, this tournament will give her a chance to shine under the spotlight.
Among the overseas stars, the likes of Sophie Ecclestone and Laura Wolvaardt will look to carry on their sensational recent international form that saw them shine at the World Cup and reach the top of the rankings. In Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin, there are two superstar West Indies cricketers who have the flair to entertain with their all-round skills.
Squads for Women' T20 Challenge
|Harmanpreet Kaur (C)||Smriti Mandhana (C)||Deepti Sharma (C)|
|Taniya Bhatia (VC)||Poonam Yadav (VC)||Sneh Rana (VC)|
|*Alana King||Arundhati Reddy||Shafali Verma|
|Ayushi Soni||*Hayley Matthews||*Ayabonga Khaka|
|Chandu V||Jemimah Rodrigues||Kiran Navgire|
|*Deandra Dottin||Priyanka Priyadarshini||*Kate Cross|
|Harleen Deol||Rajeshwari Gayakwad||Keerthi James|
|Meghna Singh||Renuka Singh||*Laura Wolvaardt|
|Monica Patel||Richa Ghosh||Maya Sonawane|
|Muskan Malik||S. Meghana||*Natthakan Chantham|
|Pooja Vastrakar||Saiqa Ishaque||Radha Yadav|
|Priya Punia||*Salma Khatun||Aarti Kedar|
|Rashi Kanojia||*Sharmin Akter||Shivali Shinde|
|*Sophie Ecclestone||*Sophia Dunkley||Simran Bahadur|
|*Suné Luus||Sujata Mallik||Yastika Bhatia|
|Mansi Joshi||Shraddha Pokharkar||Pranavi Chandra|
Here’s a look at what the captains had to say before the event:
Harmanpreet Kaur, Supernovas Captain
On pacer Mansi Joshi:
“Last time, unfortunately, she didn’t get a chance to play but this time she did well in the domestic season and now in the net sessions also she was looking really nice. It is a great opportunity for her. For a long time she was not part of Indian side and now if she gets a chance, it is a great platform where you can perform and gates are open for Indian team. I am actually very positive the way she is bowling in the nets, I hope she will get a chance to play and prove herself.”
On her squad:
“We do have a few new faces in our side and we try our best to bond and though giving opportunities to all is not possible but still we will try to give as much as possible. We have a good team and I am really looking forward to a positive season.”
On Alana King:
“I did discuss with her about her bowling plans, where she is comfortable in bowling. She is someone who has done well during the World Cup and even before that. It is a great positive for us having someone like her and I am very happy that she is open to ideas. She is ready to bowl before and after the powerplay, so it gave me a lot of confidence. I can use her where ever the team requires her.”
On women’s T20 Challenge over the years:
“We get quality games and the domestic players get a lot of chances to perform. Maybe this will be the last edition and next year we’re looking positively at the IPL, and that will give more opportunities for the girls to perform. In the last two-three years, if we talk about the benefits of this tournament, the performance of the girls in the T20 team and the improvement of their performances, it is because of these games. This tournament has helped us.”
Smriti Mandhana, Trailblazers Captain
On left-arm pacer Shraddha Pokharkar:
“I think three or four years back I saw Shradda, I always thought she has good potential and now when I saw her one month back, she was brilliant in the nets. She hits good length and she has a good height, so it is not easy to hit her length. She has a great slower one which is a really big weapon when you play T20, so looking forward to see how she progresses further.”
On her own game:
“Personally I have been working on my T20 cricket since we have lot of T20s to play this year. So, trying to play little bit more shots then I used to playing.
“We had a good T20 domestic season (Maharashtra reached T20 league final), so just looking to continue with this tournament. I’m not thinking about how I will be going about it but I will just try to enjoy as much as I can.”
On giving chances to youngsters:
“This is, of course, an Indian Women’s T20 Challenge, so we would want our uncapped players to go out there and play something which is very close to international cricket. But two or three matches are really too low (for us) to give opportunities to everyone but we all are really going to try to do that.”
On the Women’s T20 Challenge over the years:
“...every year we always had this in our minds that we have to put out the best cricket possible so that we have a women’s IPL as early as we can. So this tournament has been great in the sense that people are getting to know more of domestic talent and I think we have got a few talents out of this tournament. “
Deepti Sharma, Velocity captain
On the Women’s T20 Challenge:
“BCCI is taking a good initiative for women’s cricket. In future, six teams may be there because in India there is a lot of talent and if the tournament is expanded they will get to show their talent. It is a very good opportunity for new players because foreign players will be there along side senior India players. They can share the dressing room and gain valuable experience. The women players will also get to play matches which is important.”
On Kiran Navgire:
“Kiran is like Shafali, a very hard hitter (of the ball). In the nets, I have seen her mostly hit sixes in the two sessions we have had. It feels like most of the balls will fly into the stands when she is batting. Will be fun to watch.”
On her own game:
“I have worked on power-hitting. I have also worked extensively on my inside out shots with my coach.”
The tournament, being played at MCA Stadium in Pune where the league matches in IPL 2022 were also played, has stuck to a schedule similar to the one in 2020. While three of the four matches are at 7.30 pm IST, the second match (being played on the same days as IPL’s Qualifier 1) is at 3.30 pm IST. The Supernovas will be playing a match few hours after their opener that goes till late on Monday. It was an issue highlighted in Sharjah too, but for no apparent reason other than having matches in the same week of IPL playoffs, the scheduling once again defies logic.
Women's T20 Challenge schedule
|Date||Time (IST)||Team A||Team B|
The tournament will be broadcast on Star Sports and Disney+Hotstar