“We are very happy. I was just telling the girls, Australia’s winning streak started against India, in India, so now, we are the ones who broke that streak,” said Mithali Raj, the Test and ODI captain of India after halting Australia Women’s 26-match winning streak in one-day internationals.
Southern Stars’ winning streak came to an end after Mithali Raj and her team pulled off their highest-ever run chase to defeat Meg Lanning’s and ladies by two wickets in the third and final ODI on September 26.
But while this was an impressive feat, it still appears as though it wasn’t satisfactory enough.
The excitement of winning the series, that too Down Under, you ought to think, would’ve meant something huge. India nearly outplayed Australia but again, it was a situation of being too close and yet, too far.
Many ‘ifs and buts’ were associated with how India went about their cricket in the recent white-ball contests.
Then even a feat as dazzling as stopping Australia’s surge, something akin to the challenge of stopping a rampaging bus with bare hands, seemed undone by missed chances.
Only if they could have not dropped the catches. Only if Richa Ghosh could have done a clever stumping, like the one she did in England to dismiss Sophia Dunkley.
What if the visitors have avoided overthrows?
However, “ifs and buts” have little to do with the game if you wish to win; eventually, it is a matter of who plays better cricket on a particular day.
Four days after the conclusion of the ODI series, India engaged in their first-ever Day/Night Test against Australia, which the world knows was nearly in the visitors’ favour had the rain-marred content not ended in a non conclusion.
What conclusion can be made from a drawn contest anyway?
That said, the ongoing assignment against Australia is only the second away tour for Indian Women since they played in the T20 World Cup final on 8 March 2020. Earlier this year during June-July, India visited England for a one-off Test, three-ODIs and as many T20Is.
Then there was a 5-Match ODI series and 3-Match T20I series where India found themselves wanting against the Proteas women, which ought to be remembered was India’s first assignment since the women’s world cup in 2020.
Cricket for our girls after a year-long gap.
But what if there’d have been a Women’s IPL in this period of void?
The lack of practice and matches resulted in team India’s embarrassing 4-1 series loss to South Africa in March. The team’s head coach and former opening batsman for the men’s team, W.V. Raman cited this gap as being the main reason for his players lacking the intensity and fitness required to perform against the team that has been constantly playing cricket.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the Indian men’s team participated in a full-fledged IPL, toured Australia, hosted England and toured them as well while the Women’s national team sat at home and waited for international cricket to kick off.
Waited for 364 days exactly to tighten their shoelace.
Yet, at all this time, imagine
For Australia Women, England Women, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies Women, it was nothing different. They kept playing, touring and hosting matches while the players belonging to the cricket world’s richest board – Board of Control for Cricket in India, preferred waiting.
Maybe that was the right thing to do.
But what if there was a Women’s IPL for say a 3-week run? Would that not have rendered much needed practice to our girls and brought them closer to understand the Proteas and Southern Stars in the white-ball format, teams that India lost to eventually?
Yet, what must be appreciated is that despite playing occasional cricket in the last couple of years, India displayed the best fighting skills against the six ODI and five T20 World Cups champions.
They began the recently concluded ODI series with an embarrassing defeat against the Aussies. The second match that they lost went a long way in illustrating what happens when you play under pressure with no prior experience of playing under lights and with dew on the field.
The uncountable misfields, few dropped catches, a couple of overthrows and poor stumping led team India to another humiliating loss.
But why was this humiliating?
The Aussies were reduced to 54/4 at one stage while chasing India’s 274/7 but thanks to India’s lazy performance, the women in yellow added another victory in their cabinet.
Mithali Raj and team bounced back strongly in their last and final ODI to register a two-wicket victory against Aussies and break their twenty six-match winning streak in one-day internationals.
But wait. Are we satisfied with the results we got in Australia and England?
To understand the gravity of the situation let’s dive into the recent match results of the Indian Women in 2021. Amusingly, they haven’t won a single series, neither T20I nor ODI this year. However, thanks to their last day’s efforts, they managed to draw their One-off Bristol Test against England.
One can’t deny the fact that it was the old-fashioned batting, poor fielding, the inexperience of playing under pressure, lack of bowling options and proper middle order, that cost team India several matches and series losses. India needs to do well in all these departments to expect elegant outcomes against teams like Australia and England.
But, how do you do that?
It appears, a full-fledged Women’s IPL is the suitable answer right now.
Here’s something for the BCCI to ponder
Why is it that even after thirteen editions of the world’s best T20 franchise cricket tournament, the BCCI is still mulling over organizing a full-fledged IPL for Women?
Australia, England and New Zealand all have their professional T20 league, where players from all around the world play cricket against and along with some megastars of the game. They rub shoulders with international players in the dressing room and learn so much from them.
While Cricket Australia has their eight-team Women’s Big Bash League, launched in 2015, England had Kia Super League, which has now been replaced by eight-team The Hundred.
These T20 leagues nurture the players and cultivate them for the forthcoming challenges on the international level. The opportunity to play in the best stadiums, alongside the best players, in front of dense crowds with many others keeping their eyes on television encourages the player to expand their game and likelihoods for the national call up.
Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, and Shreyas Iyer were all exciting domestic players who, later found a big platform thanks to the IPL to showcase their skills and put their foot in the international game.
Look where they are today.
Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan got named in the T20 World Cup squad, scheduled to take place after the conclusion of the IPL 2021. They have been the consistent performers for Mumbai Indians and finally got a chance to shine on the international level.
The same could pertain to the female counterparts of the men’s national team. The Women’s IPL in India would not only help the cricketers earn exposure and experience to play under diverse conditions but will also help in expanding the talent pool.
We can get more Shafali Vermas, Yastika Bhatias, and Jemimah Rodriguez’ if BCCI manages to organise a full-fledged IPL.
The most cliched stance here would be- “you don’t know the talent that exists in India, everywhere.”
Enough said. All know it. No need of repition.
What is the board doing about it?
This, mind you, is the world’s most powerful and resourceful board committed at growing the game.
“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,” said former India captain, Shubhangi Kulkarni while speaking to The Print.
“While eight teams might be difficult to start with, we’ve to start with four or five teams,” she added.
“I don’t think there’s that much of a lack of talent, because a current lot of women players watch a lot of men’s cricket, play fearless shots, and are not scared of getting out.”
Also, the ongoing Australia tour is the India women’s last scheduled assignment before the inception of the 2022 ODI World Cup. And we still have a couple of voids in the team. From no proper middle order to old fashioned batting, from poor fielding to lack of bowling alternatives, there are things the team India needs to tackle before the marquee event.
Now, this is where the Women’s IPL could have helped. We might have got some talents to embed in the middle order or could have got some good bowling options to try before the mega occasion.
Conclusively, the richest cricketing body has, thus far, offered no reason for not having a Women’s IPL as yet. Could revenues-rather the paucities of it- be the reason?
Won’t they happen soon after the inception? Don’t we know the marketing talent India possesses and the huge herd of brands that all honeybee to the nectar that’s cricket in India?