Lack of training wasn’t best advertisement for the game: Lisa Sthalekar

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Rajasthan Royals appoint Lisa Sthalekar as advisor for youth cricket

Lisa Sthalekar is a World Cup winner. ©Getty Images

The Indian cricketers returned to the high during the recently-concluded Women’s T20 Challenge in Sharjah. The tournament was a huge success alongside men’s IPL post-COVID-19 with Smriti Mandhana-led Trailblazers claiming their maiden title.

However, the future looks bleak for the players as none know what’s in front of them. Besides the T20 Challenge, the only time India played cricket this year was during the T20 World Cup and the preceding T20 tri-series, both in Australia.

“I know the pandemic and what the situation is in India. But the fact that Indian contracted players don’t know when they are playing next is a massive concern,” former Australian captain Lisa Sthalekar told reporters during a programme.

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“They are going to fall behind. I feel they are the biggest untapped talent market. If they get it right, then Indian women’s cricket will dominate.” While the men were taken to the UAE one month prior to the tournament, the likes of Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Co. got only a week’s training before they were rushed into the three-team event.

“In the Women's T20 challenge, unfortunately, the matches were on low-scoring wickets. Also, the girls had hardly trained and that wasn’t the best advertisement for the game,” opined the cricketer-turned-commentator.

The T20 Challenge started its way back in 2018 with just two teams before one more was added in the following year. This year, it was meant to be a four-team affair but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that plan was put to a halt, continuing with the same three teams as last year.

The 44-year-old also drew flak on the BCCI adding that the Board is moving slowly in organising a full-fledged Women’s IPL. "I think they (BCCI) are moving in the right direction but slow in planning a women's IPL and provide enough match practice,” she said.

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She also drew a comparison with the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) which has been running successfully since 2015. “The reason why Australian women’s cricket is going well is because we have invested in it. Australia are the leaders in creating WBBL, which is in its sixth year. I still remember in the first year, we had only six state teams. But we went ahead and were extended by two teams.

“I hear the argument in India that we just don’t have the depth, but we didn’t think we had the depth either. Maybe the teams (in WBBL) were a little bit weaker when we started but we have more girls pick up the bat and ball now and we are seeing quality teams. You have to take a bit of a gamble, but when is the right time to do anything? Probably yesterday,” Sthalekar concluded.