Thousands stood outside the Sawai Mansingh Stadium at Jaipur on that scorching summer evening last year. That wasn’t an unusual sight in front of an IPL venue in the pre-COVID period.
What was unusual, though, was that it was for a women’s T20 match that the huge crowd had gathered. Some 15,000 watched Supernovas beating Velocity in the final of the Women’s T20 Challenge.
The entire tournament at Jaipur had attracted good crowds. It was further proof that the women’s game was getting more and more popular in the country.
Female cricketers, from around the globe, will, of course, have to play before empty stands in the third edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge, which opens at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. They, however, would be relieved that they are getting to play some cricket after all in these troubled times; many of them haven’t got a game for eight months.
Within two years, the Women’s T20 Challenge — considered a precursor to the possible women’s IPL — has evolved as an important event on the international calendar. It attracts the best cricketers from around the world and has unearthed fresh Indian talent, like Shafali Varma, who was a revelation last year.
She was 15 then, but had impressed with her stroke-making abilities. She is now an integral part of the Indian team and hit the highest number of sixes at the Women’s T20 World Cup last year.
She will be one of the players to watch out for in this tournament, too. Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj, who lead Supernovas, Trailblazers and Velocity, could also light up the Sharjah stadium with their batting, along with Jemimah Rodrigues.
From abroad, there are quality batters like Deandra Dottin (West Indies), Danielle Wyatt (England), Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka) and Thailand’s Natthakan Chantham. But because of the clash of dates with Women’s Big Bash in Australia, several big stars, like Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates, Natalie Sciver, Stafanie Taylor, Amelia Kerr, Lea Tahuhu and Hayley Matthews, are missing; they had all played at Jaipur.
The teams play each other once and the top two will face off in the final.
Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Jemimah Rodrigues (vc), Chamari Atapattu, Priya Punia, Anuja Patil, Radha Yadav, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shashikala Siriwardene, Poonam Yadav, Shakera Selman, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Ayushi Soni, Ayabonga Khaka and Muskan Malik.
Velocity: Mithali Raj (c), Veda Krishnamurthy (vc), Shafali Verma, Sushma Verma (wk), Ekta Bisht, Mansi Joshi, Shikha Pandey, Devika Vaidya, Sushree Dibyadarshini, Manali Dakshini, Leigh Kasperek, Danielle Wyatt, Sune Luus, Jahanara Alam and M Anagha.
Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (c), Deepti Sharma (vc), Punam Raut, Richa Ghosh, D Hemalatha, Nuzhat Parween (wk), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Harleen Deol, Jhulan Goswami, Simaran Dil Bahadur, Salma Khatun, Sophie Ecclestone, Natthakan Chantham, Deandra Dottin and Kashvee Gautam.
All matches will be held in Sharjah at 7.30pm (IST).