The 2020 edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge is set to begin in Sharjah on Wednesday, marking the return to action of Indian cricketers after an eight-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The exhibition tournament will see three teams – Supernovas, Trailblazers and Velocity captained by Indian stars Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj – take on each other in a round-robin format with a final. The squads are largely made of India internationals with a few uncapped Indian players and a depleted list of 12 overseas cricketers.
In its third edition and the second with more than a standalone match, the event will have a title sponsor for the first time and will be telecast live at prime time world over.
Even in its current truncated version, the Women’s T20 Challenge is an important tournament for Indian cricket. For the international players, it marks their first competitive outing since the final of the T20 World Cup in March, which they lost to Australia. But for the uncapped Indians, it forms a rare and vital platform to showcase their potential at the highest level. Remember how it gave us Shafali Verma in 2019? The teenager is one of the most highly rated international youngsters and it all began with a fearless show at the edition held in Jaipur last year.
As we gear up for the 2020 edition, here’s a look at the five top young Indians who are yet to play international cricket
The 23-year-old from Mumbai has been on the domestic cricket radar for a while since her performances in the 2019 Challenger Trophy. She was part of the India A squad that toured Australia earlier this year as well as the Women’s T20 Quadrangular Series along with the Asian Cricket Council Women’s Emerging Teams Cup and the Board President’s XI in 2019. A pace-bowling all-rounder, she has been a consistent performer in grade cricket with bat and ball.
Velocity captain Mithali Raj said she would be an uncapped player to watch out for and her numbers back the claim. She was the captain of the Mumbai team that won the Under-23 T20 Trophy in December last year.
In the final of the 2020 Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy, she had figures of 3/15 taking the wickets of internationals Jemimah Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh in a match won by eight wickets. The Women’s T20 Challenge will be a big platform for her as she will get to share the ball with India’s T20 pace spearhead Shikha Pandey.
Sushree Dibyadarshini Pradhan
The 23-year-old from Odisha is another regular for India A and has actually played in the Women’s T20 Challenger before, featuring in one game for Velocity in 2019. The off-spinner had figures of 1/14 in that game, taking the wicket of West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor.
On the domestic circuit, she has been part of the Women’s Emerging Teams Cup and the Board President’s XI in 2019 and played the Women’s T20 Quadrangular Series against Bangladesh and Thailand earlier this year. In a match against Thailand, she had stunning figures of 3/3 in January.
Spin will be crucial at Sharjah and this could mean she gets more chances in this year’s edition, possibly bowling alongside New Zealand Leigh Kasperek.
Earlier this year, Chandigarh’s 16-year-old Kashvee Gautam set the record books buzzing when she took all 10 wickets in an innings while playing the Women’s Under-19 One-Day Trophy. Her 10-wicket sweep in just 4.5 overs to seal a 161-run win Arunachal Pradesh included a hat-trick and she followed it with nine wickets against Sikkim.
As the record indicates, the teenage medium-pacer has the potential to reach big heights and the opportunity to play in the Women’s T20 Challenge is a huge boost. Now 17, will be playing for the Trailblazers alongside her idol Jhulan Goswami. Handy with the bat, she moved from Punjab this season and has scored 350 runs and taken 66 wickets for Chandigarh in plate group, one-day U-19 and U-23 according to Hindustan Times.
At 16, Anagha Murali from Karnataka is among the youngest players picked for the Women’s T20 Challenge. The spinner from Bangalore will be part of the Velocity side. While this will be her first international tour, she is already in the captain’s eye with Mithali Raj naming her as a youngster to take note of.
Brought into notice by her exploits for the state’s junior side, she was awarded the ‘best bowler’ the women’s under-16 and under-19 categories at the KSCA awards function last year. She has played for Karnataka Under-16 side, U-19 and U-23 squads as well as in the exhibition women’s Karnataka Premier League at the senior level.
She took up the game of cricket five years back and joined Herons CC under the mentorship of esteemed coach, K Muralidhara. Anagha considers Ravindra Jadeja to be her idol.
Picked by India T20I captain Haramnpreet Kaur as one of the players to watch out for, she will be playing for the Supernovas. The 20-year-old all-rounder has captained both Delhi and India B and lead the latter to the Under-23 Challenger Trophy last year. For Delhi, she has been among the runs consistently at the age group and then the Senior One-day Trophy earlier this year.
“I guess Ayushi Soni is doing very well, she has done very well in the domestic also. She is someone who has really impressed us,” Kaur said ahead of the tournament, while talking about expanding the pool of middle-order bats for India. Motivation doesn’t get better than this.
Last season, she scored 108 runs in seven T20s for Delhi and picked up a few wickets as well, according to WomensCricZone. If she is given the chances implied by Harmanpreet, she would be a player to watch out on the batting-friendly conditions in Sharjah.