Veteran India opener Gautam Gambhir lauded the efforts of Mithali Raj and her team for reaching the final of Women’s World Cup in England. The 35-year-old also pushed for the Board of Control for Cricket in India to initiate a women’s Indian Premier League.

A win for India against England in the final at Lord’s on Sunday would be a bigger achievement than the men’s team’s 2011 World Cup win. “[Mithali Raj’s team has] inspired a lot of girls to take up the sport,” Gambhir said. “Not many followed women’s cricket [before this tournament] and they are only one step away from creating history. I believe that if they win the World Cup, it would be bigger than the 2011 World Cup.”

‘Award contracts and start an IPL’

The left-hander also emphasised the need for the contract situation of the women to be ironed out by the board. Although he admitted that it would be difficult to get the zeros on their paychecks on par with the men, Gambhir said he thinks financial stability can be achieved.

“The most important thing is the financial security,” he said. “The contract system needs to be good. I know it will be difficult for BCCI to get them to the same level as men’s. They should try to bridge the gap.”

Gambhir also said that a women’s IPL will increase the talent pool in women’s cricket, and his Kolkata Knight Riders franchise would be happy to start a women’s team. “We can see how the men’s team have benefited after the IPL,” he said.

“Harmanpreet Kaur, who plays in the Women’s Big Bash League, knew how to handle pressure [during her brilliant 171* against Australia]. The talent pool will increase and the players won’t be awed when they reach the international stage. I am sure whoever sponsored the Kolkata Knight Rider’s men would be happy to sponsor the women’s team.”

Gambhir added that the women’s IPL matches can be held right before the men’s. “If they can play before the men’s game [begins], there were will be a good crowd coming in, especially the second part of the innings, and that will help women’s cricket immensely and I hope BCCI takes it seriously and have a women’s IPL in place. Even if does not happen along with the men’s IPL, they should create a window for them.”