Back on the pitch, ready to blaze the trail
Indian women cricketers yearning for game time will be back on the field with the Women’s T20 Challenge, in its third year, getting underway at the Sharjah Stadium on Wednesday.
Defending champions Supernovas, led by India’s T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur, face Velocity in the tournament opener. Mithali Raj, India’s premier batswoman, is the captain of Velocity that also features promising teen Shafali Verma, tipped to be a future star of Indian women’s cricket.
Trailblazers are the other side in the competition and they are led by Smriti Mandhana, now one of the most accomplished batswoman across formats.
All four matches of the competition, including the final on November 9, will be held at Sharjah.
Owing to the lockdown, the Women’s T20 World Cup final at the MCG back on March 8 happened to be the last competitive appearance for the likes of Smriti, Shafali and Deepti Sharma. For Mithali and Jhulan Goswami, their last competitive game dates back to November 2019 during the tour of West Indies.
Jhulan and Richa Ghosh, though, were more fortunate as they could do their set of workouts during the two-week Bengal women’s strength and conditioning camp at Eden Gardens last month.
The Women’s T20 Challenge, therefore, gives the Indians an opportunity to get back to shape, gain some rhythm going forward and make a mark with impressive showings.
“Obviously, these matches will be very important for our women cricketers. They will be playing after a long time.
“As you have seen, the men’s series in England and then the IPL also took time to start for reasons known to us. But it’s really good to see that cricket for Indian women will finally resume,” former India captain Anjum Chopra told The Telegraph from Dubai.
“Whether it’s youngsters or established players, this tournament is very important for everyone as most of them are coming out after a long layoff because of the pandemic,” she added.
Expressing her general views on the tournament, Anjum said: “This is a completely different tournament altogether and every player has to perform to their optimum level. You expect something from everyone and all of them have equal responsibilities in terms of proving their mettle. That’s why they are in the team.”
Well-known names from other nations too would be showcasing their skills in this competition. In the Traiblazers squad, England left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone, the No.1-ranked T20I bowler, will be the one to look out for. Her compatriot Danni Wyatt, a top-order batter, represents Velocity.
Ecclestone relishes the prospect of a “battle” with Wyatt, while she also has Windies stroke-maker Deandra Dottin — the first woman to score a century in T20Is — as her teammate.
Ecclestone, Wyatt and Dottin go into the tournament after having had a decent game time in the form of the England-West Indies T20Is in Derby. On top of that, Ecclestone and Wyatt also turned out in a couple of Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy matches prior to that series.
Twenty-four-year-old Nattakan Chantam, who opens for Thailand, will be playing in this tournament for the first time along with Dottin and Bangladesh spinner Salma Khatun for Trailblazers.Chantam had impressed one and all with her stroke play in the Women’s T20 World Cup, especially in her 56-run knock versus Pakistan in Sydney.
“Yes, it’s indeed wonderful to have her in the mix. I saw her play a delightful knock in the T20 World Cup in Australia earlier this year. Hope she excels,” Anjum said.