Smirti Mandhana says women’s team wanted A tours ‘badly’, applauds BCCI’s move

Jaipur: The limited pool of quality cricketers in India’s domestic set up has been viewed as one of the holdbacks to a full-fledged Women’s Indian Premier League (WIPL).

Many, including ODI captain Mithali Raj (in March 2018) had pointed out the need for more quality players before venturing into a full-fledged T20 league. “India A itself need more quality players. So, once we have those many players, I think it will be wise enough to have an IPL,” she had said.

File image of Smriti Mandhana. AFP

File image of Smriti Mandhana. AFP

With Cricket Australia (CA) set to host India for a maiden women’s A tour in December, the development comes as a major stepping stone towards broad-basing the woman’s game.

“To have A tours was one step that all the players wanted badly,” a delighted Smriti Mandhana said. “If we don’t play India A versus other teams, the bench strength won’t be formed. This is a really great move by the BCCI to send India A to Australia and gain experience.”

In 2018, the BCCI and CA came into an agreement to host annual A series between the two nations.

The first of such series was held in October last year, when Australia A toured India for one-day and T20 tourney.

“I am sure before the (T20) World Cup, the girls will have valuable experience (of playing in Australia) and you never know, one or two girls, with some impressive performances, could be picked in the World Cup squad,” said the T20 vice-captain on the sidelines of the Red Bull Campus Cricket (RBCC) event.

“Hopefully, the BCCI also has a cricketing calendar set for the entire year, ” she added.

India A will play three ODIs in Brisbane starting on 12 December, before moving to the Gold Coast for three T20Is.

After a one-off Women’s T20 challenge in 2018, a three-team tournament was organised this year and Mandhana said the BCCI had a definitive roadmap in place with regards to a full-grown competition. She also said she was satisfied with the growth at the same time, suggesting the tournament shouldn’t be compared to leagues such as the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL).

“If you look at the success of the Women’s IPL we had, I have to say I am definitely satisfied. We saw over 15,000 people turning up without a lot of hype and advertisement. Generally, the build-up for men’s IPL begins one month in advance. It was just 10 days back when the promotions for WIPL started.”

Mandhana’s Trailblazers were knocked out early, but she was present at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium to witness a fairly large sum of people making their way to the ground for the match.

“Even though I wasn’t a part of the finals I was very proud of the 15,000 that came. These are all baby steps and I don’t think that in the pursuit of creating something big, we let it fall. Taking cautious steps at this moment is better. And winning one World Cup will change things drastically.”

“It is not right to compare WIPL with WBBL. It is too early to compare as well. WBBL is an eight-team affair, while Women’s IPL was a three-team contest. Also, last year there were two teams, this year we had three, so it is getting bigger and exciting. We had crowds coming in and all those are positives as a cricketer and as for the board too,” Mandhana added.

Speaking during the National finals of RBCC that had over 300 colleges competing, Mandhana said, “When you’re put in such a competitive league, the players coming out of it are bound to be prepared for bigger challenges whenever they arrive. It is a great opportunity and a fantastic initiative.”