Leading Indian players push the case for women’s IPL

Both Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues, two of India’s best T20 batters, said a women’s Indian Premier League would give young players the exposure they need before entering the international arena

India's biggest stars are lighting up Weber WBBL|07, as the chorus continues to grow in support of a women's Indian Premier League.

Renegades imports Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues are both inside the league's top five run scorers, with Kaur passing 300 runs for the season during their side's derby win over Melbourne Stars last weekend.

Kaur made her international debut in 2014, around 18 months before the WBBL was launched, and has witnessed first-hand the growth in Australian cricket over the seven seasons since.

"I hope we will also get a platform like that," Kaur said of her desire to see a women's IPL.

"We have so many young players, if we get that platform it will be really good for us."

For the last three years, a handful of women's exhibition matches have been played during the men's IPL finals, but no plans have yet been announced for a fully-fledged tournament to accompany the men's, which will expand to 10 teams next season.

On Wednesday, newly appointed Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja signalled his hopes of becoming the first cricket board in Asia to launch a fully-fledged women's T20 league to sit alongside the Pakistan Super League.

While she waits for a women’s IPL, Kaur is making a serious bid for player for the tournament in her third WBBL season for her second team.

The India T20 skipper has hit 309 runs for the Renegades at 61.8, with a strike rate of 137.33, from nine innings.

The season-ending injury to Georgia Wareham has also seen Kaur handed more responsibility with the ball; more of a part-timer for her country, she has thrived in the powerplay, and has taken more wickets this season (12 at 18.83) than in 35 previous WBBL games for the Thunder.

Kaur is closely followed on the runs chart by Rodrigues, who scored 293 at 36.62, at a strike rate of 120.08, for the Renegades in her first WBBL season.

"If you see the standard of the Australia and England girls, it's not that we don't have that much skill but the amount of exposure they get to (playing under pressure) helps them improve so much," Rodrigues told before the start of the tournament.

"I know the pressure of playing in front of a crowd, under lights, televised on TV ... as a young kid these things are so new for us.

"But if a youngster goes in the women's IPL and (is exposed) to all those things, then gets selected for India, she'll be in a familiar place and it'll be easier for her to go and express herself.

"I think it's high time, it'll just make women's cricket better in India."

Eight India players in total are appearing in WBBL|07, a welcome return after two seasons where no one from the country was available due to conflicting series.

Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav has seven scalps for the season, including three key wickets against Sydney Thunder, where she got the better of compatriot Smriti Mandhana, who has hit two half-centuries for the Thunder in WBBL|07.

"(A women's IPL) is the next step," Mandhana said.

"Having an eight-team IPL or however many teams, it'll add a lot of depth.

"We've seen what the WBBL has done for the Australian team and the standard is going up, even their bench, that's what these leagues too."

Thunder teammate Deepti Sharma has claimed 10 wickets at 17.4.

Meanwhile for Sydney Sixers, Shafali Verma (149 runs at 21.28) is adjusting to an unfamiliar role in the middle order, hitting an unbeaten half-century against Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday.

Only teenagers Richa Ghosh (149 runs at 16.55 for the Hurricanes) and the Sixers' Radha Yadav have yet to make a significant impact on the tournament.

As it stands, no announcement has been made around whether any T20 Challenge games will be held in 2021.

India's national squad was in Australia during the rescheduled second half of the IPL season, when the matches may otherwise have been held.

Kaur remains hopeful those games can be staged before the end of the year.

"It is great for us getting back-to-back games before the World Cup to prepare ourselves well, Kaur said.

"Right now we don't have any information (about the T20 Challenge), (so) I hope when we go back we'll get those games because they're very important for our domestic players.

"Our international players are getting experience in the Big Bash and The Hundred, and (the T20 Challenge) would give our domestic players experience playing with overseas players."