Why we must be grateful to BCCI for Women’s T20 Challenge 2020
After tackling potential roadblocks, the Women’s T20 Challenge will take place with Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana reinstated as captains of the three squads.
There are two ways to look at the Women’s T20 Challenge this year.
From an ardent fan’s perspective, the T20 Challenge will deliver less than what was promised. The BCCI had floated the idea of an expanded four-team affair off the back of appeals to make it a full-fledged IPL style tournament.
It was hoped that the world class Australian players would grace the tournament after giving it a miss in 2019. After all, the BCCI and Cricket Australia sorted out the differences that forced the players to skip the tournament in the first place.
The coronavirus induced rescheduling of the IPL meant that the Women’s Big Bash League [WBBL] and the Women’s T20 Challenge would coincide. The Australian absence from the T20 Challenge will be felt again. But that also meant that Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues won’t play for their WBBL franchises.
Nobody stands to benefit from the clash in schedules. Wicket-keeper batter Alyssa Healy voiced her frustration regarding the issue on Twitter earlier in the year. There can be no denying that the WBBL is the more desirable of the two tournaments at this juncture. The extended length and it’s greater pedigree gives it an edge over the Women’s T20 Challenge, which will be without a few international stars this year.
The other way to see it is being grateful for having a tournament in the first place. In July 2020, that prospect looked bleak. India’s bilateral series against England had just gotten cancelled. A committee of selectors was non-existent, and they were formed only in September.
Return to 2019 colours
So amidst all the uncertainty in the build-up to the competition, the Indian stars will don the same colours as they did last year. Harmanpreet Kaur will lead Team Supernovas’ defence of the title while Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj will captain Team Trailblazers and Team Velocity respectively.
Shafali Verma will play for Velocity – the team which laid a platform for her to set the big stage alight last year. Arjuna Awardee Deepti Sharma will play for the Trailblazers while sprightly batter Jemimah Rodrigues will play for Supernovas. Chandigarh teenager Kashvee Gautam made the Trailblazers squad off the back of a 10-wicket haul in an U-19 match earlier this year.
There will indeed be 12 international stars in the T20 Challenge with BCCI looking towards India’s Asian neighbours to participate.
Players from England, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies and Thailand will be flying over to the UAE. Each of the three teams in the Women’s T20 Challenge will have 4 overseas players in their squad. Let’s find out more about them.
The English duo of Danielle Wyatt and Sophie Ecclestone are big draws in the Women’s T20 Challenge this year. Wyatt will return to Team Velocity while Ecclestone will play for the Trailblazers once more.
A popular name in India, Wyatt will likely open the batting with Shafali Verma. She may be out of form at the moment but seems to enjoy her time with the Indian girls.
Ecclestone – the number one ranked bowler in T20Is is definitely one to watch out for. The left-armer is one of the three bright young spinners in England along with Sarah Glenn and Mady Villiers.
Jahanara Alam and Salma Khatun will be flying in from Bangladesh. Khatun’s off-spin will further strengthen a Trailblazers bowling attack featuring Jhulan Goswami, Sophie Ecclestone and Deepti Sharma.
Jahanara Alam will turn out for Velocity once more. She’s one of the faster bowlers going around. One such delivery had famously cleaned up Nat Sciver – which was declared the ‘Ball of the IPL.’
Alam took a 4-for in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup against Pakistan women earlier this year.
Chamari Atapattu and Shashikala Siriwardene are Sri Lanka’s representatives. Siriwardene, a modern legend will make an awaited debut in the Women’s T20 Challenge. Her participation could be seen as a reciprocation of the Indian team’s gesture after she retired from the game.
Siriwardene called time on a celebrated 17 year long career after the ICC Women’s World T20 2020 in March. She has over 3000 runs and 200 wickets in almost 200 limited overs internationals. It would be right to call the all-rounder as ‘Sri Lanka’s first real women’s superstar.’ A classic farewell to international cricket was in store for her, as she recorded her best T20I figures in her last match – taking 4/16 against Bangladesh women.
Atapattu is a top order left-handed batter who has experienced lifting the Women’s T20 Challenge trophy with the Supernovas last year. She had a sparkling ICC Women’s World T20, scoring 154 runs. Siriwardene will join Atapattu in Harmanpreet Kaur’s Team Supernovas.
The Women’s T20 Challenge will welcome South African players for the first time. Ayabonga Khaka and Sune Luus had both toured India in 2019 for a bilateral ODI and T20I series and would be familiar with the Indian girls.
Luus will team up with Mithali Raj’s Velocity – a team that lost out on the title by the barest of margins. The 24 year old leg-spin bowler is closing in on 150 wickets in international cricket but can double up as a capable middle order batter.
Deandra Dottin – the self proclaimed ‘World Boss’ will line up for Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers. The aggressive batter is one of the few players who has some match practise behind her. Even as West Indies women suffered a 5-0 whitewash against England in September, Deandra top-scored with 185 runs in the T20I series.
The experienced Shakera Selman is the only overseas player to switch teams. She will play for Team Supernovas this time around after having plied her trade for the Trailblazers in the Jaipur edition.
New Zealand and Thailand
White Ferns stars Sophie Devine, Lea Tahuhu, Amelia Kerr and Suzie Bates left their footprint on the Women’s T20 Challenge last year. However, their commitments with the WBBL have ruled them out of the T20 Challenge in UAE. That presents an opportunity to Leigh Kasperek, whose potent off-spin is likely to trouble batters in arid conditions. She’ll play in the purple of Team Velocity.
Here’s the headline grabber. Thailand’s Nattakan Chantam is the first Thai player to represent a franchise team. Fascinatingly, she’s also became the first from her country to score a fifty in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020. If selected for the Trailblazers, she will likely slot at the top of the order alongside Smriti Mandhana.
Bring on the Women’s T20 Challenge.