In the wake of India’s rousing run to the final of the 2017 World Cup, there have been loud calls for the creation of a women’s IPL. India ODI captain Mithali Raj and fast bowler Jhulan Goswami, however, don’t think the idea is feasible just yet, given the current depth of talent in Indian women’s cricket.
“It’s important to have a pool of players who will be qualified to play an IPL kind of a league. We need players [to] make up India A. Once we have those many players, then I think it would be wise for us to have an IPL,” Raj said on Tuesday. “India A itself needs more quality players. So, once we have those many players, I think it will be wise enough to have an IPL.
“In the start, you can feed in any player from the domestic circuit, but there will be a stark difference between the calibre of an international player and domestic rookie, which might go against the idea of promoting women’s cricket. I personally believe that when you have strong domestic set-up that churns out quality players, then giving them an opportunity in IPL makes sense.”
Goswami, who will be featuring in the T20 tri-series starting Thursday after recovering from a heel injury, echoed Raj’s views.
“I agree with what she said. It’s important to have a strong domestic set-up and then get such leagues started.”
Raj said that even though the BCCI has taken a significant step forward by putting together the India A women’s squad, identifying and nurturing the next generation of international players will require a considerable investment of time.
“We just started with the India A tours with formation of the A team taking place last year after the World Cup,” Raj said. “So it will take some years to get our second-string team in place. We do have some young, talented players but they need exposure. So, I am sure in a year or two we will have a better quality of players playing for India.”
At a time when the management has shown a clear slant towards blooding young talent, the return of the 34-year-old Rumeli Dhar to the international mix, during the tour of South Africa, took many followers of the game by surprise.
Called up after a six-year hiatus as replacement for the then-injured Goswami, Rumeli’s selection was seen as both a reward for consistency in the domestic circuit as well as an SOS call to plug the dearth of dependable, up-and-coming talent in the quick-bowling department.
Raj backed the selectorial gamble and Rumeli, who took two catches and a three-for in the two matches she played in South Africa, insisting that current form should take precedence ahead of a player’s age or their international career timeline.
“Yes, there’s been a break in the last time she played international cricket for India,” Raj said, “but the selectors got her back during the South Africa tour because Jhulan got injured during the South Africa ODI series. Rumeli had done very well in the T20 format in the domestic series.
“As far as I know, I think age shouldn’t be a matter. If she has performed well, I look it at as an example of if you do very well in domestic [cricket], the selectors will show a lot of interest in giving the player an opportunity in the T20 team. And Rumeli did well when she got that opportunity.”
Looking back on the 3-0 series loss against Australia in the ODI leg of India’s first home season since the World Cup and a dual-series winning tour of South Africa, Raj suggested the heavy defeats had much to do with the fragility of the middle order and the inability of the bowling unit to perform at its consistent best.
“We lagged in having partnerships in the middle order that we had on the South Africa tour,” Raj said. “Our middle order did not click in the ODIs. The bowlers weren’t as disciplined as they were on the South Africa tour. Things did not go our way.”
She also admitted the team might have found it difficult to adapt to home conditions after a month-long overseas tour.
“Coming back from the South Africa tour where the wicket was different than what we have played in Baroda, there might be an issue of not having enough time to prepare well for the series,” Raj said.
“The problem is not with quality. Yes, we are coming from a successful tour, but then we are playing in different situations and conditions. The Australians have prepared well for us as it is the only tour they have come for.”
With the World T20 in November, and with a view to finding the right mix of players for the tournament, Raj said the team for the upcoming tri-nation series may be quite different from the one that played the T20Is in South Africa.
“We need to have few changes in the squad irrespective of the result, because we are looking at the bigger picture, that is we are preparing for the [T20] World Cup, so there is a chance we could see few changes in the team.”