Mithali Raj, captain of Indian Women’s national cricket team in both One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Tests believes that the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) should now “wait forever” to come up with women’s Indian Premier League (IPL), and wants that the tournament should be inaugurated next year.
Raj, who is currently the most experience playe in the Indian women’s cricket said that Women’s IPL does not have to be at the same scale as of men’s IPL and could start at a “smaller scale”.
Raj said, “I personally feel they should start a women’s IPL by next year, even if it’s on a slightly smaller scale and with some changes in rules, such as, say, have five to six foreign players in the first edition instead of four as is the case with the men’s IPL,”.
After India lost the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup against Australia last month, Sunil Gavaskar voiced for Women’s IPL saying it made “sense” to start the tournament as it would work as a platform where the young talent will be able to earn a name for themselves. After that Mithali Raj became the second person to ask BCCI to start Women’s IPL.
Acknowledging the growing popularity of the Women’s T20Is, the BCCI had scheduled a 4 team contest in 2020’s Women’s T20 Challenge with 7 matches as opposed to just 4 last year. These matches were to run parallel to the playoffs of Men’s IPL however the tournament has now been put on hold owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, when Sourav Ganguly took charge as the President of BCCI in October 2019, he said that it will take at least “4 years” for a full-fledged Women’s IPL to become a reality, stating that as of now India’s talent pool is not deep enough.
Raj agreed with Ganguly on the point, however, just as Gavaskar, she too, stressed on the face the women’s IPL would only give a boost to the numbers. She also suggested that some of the IPL franchises in Men’s tournament could buy teams in Women’s to facilitate the women’s tournament.
When asked a Women’s IPL could or should become a reality, Raj said, “I agree we don’t have the depth in the domestic pool yet, but the key is to get the existing franchises to form teams, even if [just] five or six of them are keen to begin the process because in any case, the BCCI was going to have four teams [in the Women’s T20 Challenge]”.
“You cannot wait forever; you have to begin at some point, and gradually, year by year, you can keep evolving the league and then bring it down to four foreign players”.
Emphasising on her point, Raj put forward an example of Shafali Verma a 16 year old prodigy from Haryana who was one of the players in the latest T20 World Cup who turned heads throughout the tournament.
Raj had led Verma to Velocity on last year’s Women’s T20 Challenge which she used as a ladder to reach India cap in 2019’s September.
Raj said that from T20 World Cup, Shafali Verma was the “biggest takeaway” for team India and she deserved a chance in the ODIs as well. She said, “It’s not a bad idea to consider her for the ODIs. She is young but that should not be a criterion for not giving her opportunities in the ODI side.”
Talking in the interview Mithali Raj also spoke about various topics including the sexual harassment allegation against Atul Bedade who is a former Indian batsman and was suspended from the post of the Head Coach of Baroda Women team after the allegations surfaced.
Raj said, “It’s too early for me or anyone to comment on the matter or come to a conclusion until the truth is established,” Raj said. “It would not be right on my part or anyone else’s to judge someone based on an article, but as a woman athlete, I am surprised and appalled at such news emerging because when there’s so much progress taking place in cricket and other sports in terms of empowering women, when the administrators, the athletes, many of you in the media – we all are trying to get women’s sports up to a level, these things make you wonder ‘what is happening?'”