Mithali Raj wants the BCCI to organise a women’s Indian Premier League (IPL) as early as 2021, she said in an interview to ESPNCricinfo. The Indian ODI skipper also added that it would be acceptable for the tournament to be held on a “smaller scale”, but a start needed to be made.
Earlier, Sourav Ganguly, BCCI President, had stated that a “full-fledged” women’s IPL was still four years away.
“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,” Raj said.
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Following India’s 85-run defeat at the hands of Australia in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 final in Melbourne, several former cricketers spoke about the need for a professional women’s T20 league in India. Both Sunil Gavaskar and Anjum Chopra explained that such a league would give younger players the opportunity to mix with and thereby learn from the best in the world.
Previously, the BCCI had organised women’s exhibition matches in both 2018 and 2019. First, two teams played a one-off game in Mumbai, before a third team was added in 2019 for a four-match event. Continuing on that path of growth, the BCCI had decided to add a fourth team to the mix this year and extent the Women’s T20 Challenge to a seven match event which was to take place alongside the men’s IPL knockout matches.
While Raj agreed with Ganguly’s assessment that the women’s talent pool is “thin”, she insisted that a start needed to be made to at least boost the numbers. “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 [only] 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].”
She admitted such a tournament would allow younger players to not only showcase their talents, but also quickly develop their game.
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“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.”
Raj, who captained Velocity in last year’s event, pointed to Shafali Verma as an example or the kind of talent an IPL-style tournament could unearth. Propelled into the Indian T20I team following her impressive performances in the Women’s T20 Challenge, Shafali has taken the international stage by storm with her big hitting. Her exploits in the T20 World Cup saw her even briefly rise to the top of the ICC batting rankings
Raj said Verma was the “biggest takeaway” for India from the T20 World Cup and deserved a chance in ODIs too. “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.”