Shantha Rangaswamy, Shubhangi Kulkarni bat for widening base before full-fledged Women's IPL

By Priya Nagi

New Delhi [India], May 6 (ANI): Yesteryear all-rounders Shantha Rangaswamy and Shubhangi Kulkarni have lauded BCCI for staging Women's T20 Challenger, but stressed the need for widening the base to conduct a full-fledged IPL-style league.

The crowd presence at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai during the one-off exhibition last year was thin, partly because the game had a 2 pm (IST) start. Now, in its second year, the tournament will commence at 7:30 pm except the second game, which will start at 3:30 pm. Three teams will square up against each other in a round-robin league, with all the games to be hosted at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur.

In an exclusive interaction with ANI, Indian women cricket's first captain Rangaswamy said: "After the ICC Women's World Cup 2017, the expectancy level has increased. We need to appreciate the move of all those who have planned this but a lot of preparatory work that needs to be done has still not seen the light of the day. When you write a novel... you write a preface, sometimes an epilogue and in between an actual story will be there. This is an attempt to write the preface in the sense a lot more needs to be done before. What is more important? The base should widen."

According to Kulkarni, secretary of the erstwhile Women's Cricket Association, "If you see how the World T20 2018 went in the West Indies and the performance of not only the Indian team but of other teams as well, they did very well. It was a very competitive tournament. Girls are ready for the IPL, besides it will be raising the profile of women's cricket. More players will get an opportunity to play. So that is the advantage of having this league. The selectors will get to watch more players rather than just those 15-16 they have been looking at. I think a competition like this will give more girls an opportunity to perform and show their game."

International players minus Aussies

The league, beginning May 6, will see the participation of 12 overseas players. Elite players from England, New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have found a place in the second edition of Women's T20 Challenger. Each team -- Supernovas, Trailblazers and Velocity -- will have four overseas players.

"There will be more Indian players playing with the world-class players. I'm sure that will help to enhance the standard of Indian players also. Besides, it will be raising the profile of women's cricket. I think basically the foreign players will help our Indian players to get better, which will eventually help our team," Kulkarni said.

Referring to the impact of foreign players in the IPL, Rangaswamy said, "Look at men's IPL, especially this year. If you take out the foreign players then much of the sheen is gone. You take Sunrisers Hyderabad (David Warner and Jonny Bairstow have left) and Rajasthan Royals (Steve Smith has left) they are finding it difficult to reach the three-figure mark. IPL has lost its sheen when some of their foreign players have gone back. Likewise, we have to involve more international players to make the tournament (women's league) big. Once we start calling foreign players, they will notice the talent of our players and they will be asked to go there (Women's Big Bash and Kia Super League) and play."

However, the most notable absentees are the high-profile Australians, who have been omitted due to an administrative communication breakdown.

"It would have been great to have them (Australians). I mean they are exceptional players and the league would be better with the addition of those players. They are world-class players in women's cricket so obviously it would have been great to have them as part of this league," Kulkarni, a veteran of 19 Tests and 27 ODIs, said.

"It's a good move that BCCI brought in more players this time and if Aussies don't come, it's their loss," Rangaswamy, who has played 16 Tests and 19 ODIs, said, but added, "Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, and Ellyse Perry are big names. If they had come maybe it could have added to the value."

"The best thing that has happened for men by rubbing their shoulders with international cricketers is the standards have gone up. Today, at every level the men even at the inter-state matches are good T20s because of this IPL factor," she said.

Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, and Smriti Mandhana will be leading the teams that possess talent from across the globe. It will be a great opportunity for the emerging Indian players to learn and perform with and against such diversity. (ANI)