LEFT-HAND VIEW : The importance of Challenger tournament for women’s cricket in India
Vijayawada : The senior women’s cricket Challenger was played recently in Vijayawada. Four teams (India A, B, C, D) of probables — players who showcased their skills and stood out with their performances in the senior women’s domestic tournament — were selected.Amongst the eight India players who were a part of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in Australia, only Radha Yadav participated in the Challenger tournament. Primarily identified for her bowling skills, she played an exemplary knock in one of the three matches for India C.Scoring a half century (82), she stitched a century-plus (139) partnership after her team lost six wickets. The confidence in her strokes and the application in the situation clearly displayed the learnings from becoming a professional cricketer.The fact that she was rubbing shoulders with her team-mates — some contemporaries and some younger ones — is bound to have an effect on the rest. A player from within the setup is playing for India and also in foreign leagues does become a head turner with their presence on the park and within the dressing room.
The other seven players were also available for the tournament but under their ‘workload management’ structure they were advised rest from this domestic tournament. It can be argued if they should be a part of this important tournament or not and if the rules apply for one and all or not, but that is for another day.The fact that the Indian selectors and support staff were present to witness all the matches played on two adjacent grounds and able to identify the present and the future is indeed heartening. The Indian team at present is looking to find the right balance of the same.While the present might seem satisfactory, the future should also dispense positivity and promise. There always remains a challenge in finding that perfect balance and therein lies the importance and contribution of the ones handling it. It’s important to draw a pathway, invest in the process and identify the warriors.The shift in the absence of the two veterans, Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, needs to be smooth. Never can one immediately fill the shoes of experience but the process needs initiation. India does find spinners easier than pace bowlers.
India women travel to New Zealand in the New Year. They are scheduled to play a series prior to heading into the ICC women’s 50-over World Cup. The tournament — of which India are the runners-up from 2017 — has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic. The series allows a perfect opportunity for players to acclimatise to the conditions. They will have good batting conditions but seam and pace bowlers will be required to compliment the Indian spinners.During the recent tours of England and Australia, a couple of new names stood out with their performances. Meghna Singh and Renuka Singh played their part well and had a good Challenger tournament along with S. Meghana, Yastika Bhatia, Simran Bahadur and Ayushi Soni who have been a part of the Indian dressing room.A few young players like Disha Kasat, Chandu Ram, Rashi Kanojia, Amanjot Kaur, Kanika Ahuja, Kashvee Gautam had impressive performance too — an opportunity for the decision-makers to have a closer look at them in the training camp prior to next year’s travel.Changing too many is rarely a good idea and the challenge for the Ramesh Powar-coached team will be to find the appropriate balance in the squad. Likely to travel with extra players keeping the Covid protocols in perspective, the talented bunch is getting good exposure by playing more competitive cricket around the world.The positive discussion in India continues for a having their own women’s league. Until then, the regular matches and Challenger Trophy tournaments will allow the best opportunity for hopefuls to get noticed.