WBBL set for Indian influx ahead of schedule shift
Big Bash officials still deciding where to play the second part of the WBBL season as clubs look to sign up some big-name internationals
17 September 2021, 08:28 AM AEST
India's biggest female stars are poised to make a long-awaited return to the Big Bash and the league is confident overseas signings from other countries will be able to take their places in the tournament this summer.
While no Indian players are among the Weber WBBL signings to have been confirmed by clubs so far, the Sixers have been strongly linked to batter Shafali Verma and spinner Radha Yadav.
Given India are already in Australia for the upcoming CommBank series and the fact they have no conflicting engagements after that tour ends, they make ideal recruits.
Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana were the last Indians to play in the tournament in WBBL|04 before a clash with a tour of the Caribbean prevented them taking part the following season. Several Indian players had been lined up to feature in WBBL|06 but could not take part due to a clash with the Women's T20 Challenge.
Kaur and Mandhana would remain in high demand this season and after recent strides made by the India team, the likes of Verma, Yadav, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav would also be highly sought after.
"I know there's been lots of exciting conversations going on (between clubs and India players)," Cricket Australia's General Manager of Big Bash Leagues Alistair Dobson told cricket.com.au.
"They're such a popular team, and popular players in their own right, that if we were able to see some of those players in the WBBL that'd be really exciting.
"All our clubs are having lots of conversation, so we'll wait and see."
While India's women are able to play in domestic leagues around the world, its men are not permitted to do so by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), meaning no Indian has ever played in the men's Big Bash.
Currently, nine overseas signings have been confirmed for WBBL|07 with 13 spots still either available or yet to be announced by clubs.
Only the Scorchers have confirmed their allotment of three overseas players, signing New Zealand's Sophie Devine alongside South Africa's Marizanne Kapp and Sri Lanka's Chamari Athapaththu.
The Heat have signed South Africa's Nadine de Klerk and Anneke Bosch, but have one a spot left after Amelia Kerr's withdrawal from the tournament last week.
The Hobart Hurricanes also have one spot after announcing the re-signing of Kiwi Rachel Priest and Protea Mignon Du Preez's move from the Stars, while the Stars have recruited Irish allrounder Kim Garth and have two overseas slots remaining.
The Adelaide Strikers confirmed the return of South Africa batter Laura Wolvaardt this week, while the Melbourne Renegades, Sydney Thunder and the Sixers are the clubs yet to announce overseas players.
With the season to start on October 14, those coming from overseas – in the case of the South Africans, from their current tour of the West Indies, and for New Zealand players, from their tour of England – would need to enter the country within the next fortnight to begin their period of mandatory 14-day quarantine.
In good news for the Stars and Hurricanes, Garth lives in Melbourne, where she holds a Victoria state contract, while Priest is based in Hobart.
"We're really optimistic after the great experience (we had) last year, and a great track record working with our clubs and various governments on getting the overseas players in," Dobson said.
"It's such an important part of the WBBL, we're the best cricket league in the world for women.
"We're on track again this year, we have great support from our clubs and from government, (so) we're expecting a strong contingent of overseas players again."
Meanwhile, Dobson said the league was hopeful of taking WBBL|07 to as many parts of Australia as possible despite ongoing border closures.
On Thursday, it was revealed the first 20 matches of the season would be played in Tasmania, but exactly how the competition will play out beyond October 28 has yet to be confirmed, with border closures to NSW and Victoria set to cause further concerns.
"Our focus has been on that block of 20 games, that first two-and-a-half weeks of the competition has been our focus, but there's clearly some challenges on the horizon," Dobson said.
"The flow of teams across borders is almost the number one consideration.
"We're really confident we'll play those first 20 games in Tassie and then look to still take the WBBL all around the country to the degree we can, because we know there's so many fans ... that we want to play in front of, particularly after last year (where the competition was played entirely in Sydney).
"We are still really committed as much as we can to playing the WBBL in front of home fans."
In good news for players – particularly those coming from NSW, Victoria and the ACT who will have to undergo a fortnight of hotel quarantine in Tasmania – there will be no repeat of last season's strict bio-secure hub when the tournament gets underway in the Apple Isle.
Last summer, all eight teams were housed in one hotel in Sydney Olympic Park for the entire season, with strict rules preventing them from even buying a takeaway coffee.
In Hobart and Launceston, teams will be housed across various hotels and, assuming the state's COVID-free status continues, the players will be relatively free to enjoy their surrounds during their downtime.
"We are really grateful for their commitment and sacrifice to do (quarantine)," Dobson said of those coming from locked down states.
"One of the benefits of starting the competition in Tasmania is that limited, if any, biosecurity protocols are required once they get through that quarantine, and for the other teams that travel freely to Tasmania.
"We think it's going to be a great experience for them.
"We're working closely with the guys in Tassie around some of some great activities we can set up away from the games to showcase all the great things that Tasmania has to offer."