Australia's top internationals might be missing due to inter-board politics but the second edition of the Women's T20 Challenge starting Monday will provide an ideal opportunity to the younger Indian players to raise their level in company of the game's biggest stars. Three teams -- Trailblazers, Supernovas and Velocity -- will play each other in the round robin format. Harmanpreet Kaur's Supernovas take on Smriti Mandhana's Trailblazers in the opening game.
Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy -- three of the most sought-after players in women's game -- had to unfortunately miss out with the BCCI alleging Cricket Australia of trying to use the three stars as "bait" to cancel a scheduled ODI series of the men's team in India. However, Danielle Wyatt and Stephanie Taylor are the big overseas names, who are expected to entertain the crowd with their skills.
But the biggest takeaway from the four games could be the opportunity for the 27 Indian players in the three teams. Jammu and Kashmir will also have its representation through Jasia Akhtar, the best woman player to have emerged from the valley and is expected to play her part for Mandhana's Trailblazers team.
Hailing from Kashmir's Shopian district, Jasia currently represents Punjab in national tournaments and has already played for India Red in the Challenger Trophy. With the BCCI slotting the match on non-IPL days and also being televised on prime time, the tournament is the kind of boost that women's game needs in India.
India's veteran ODI skipper Mithali Raj, who will be leading the Velocity side, feels the tournament is a "step in right direction". "We need to understand that to start something different, we had to start small. Last year we had just one game and this year they have added one more team and it's a one-leg tournament. Maybe by next year or so, we might have a full-fledged league," Mithali said.
It's still time when stakeholders are testing waters, admitted Mithali. "Currently, it is like testing waters as we need to see how people reciprocate and how the teams do. So it's also important for us to perform well so that we can grab eyeballs and attract more people to watch our matches," she opined.
"So that will probably encourage the BCCI or the franchises to come forward to start a proper league." The Squads:
Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Mansi Joshi, Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Radha Yadav, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Sophie Devine (New Zealand), Natalie Sciver (England), Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka), Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand). Coach: WV Raman
Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (capt), Bharti Fulmali, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Jasia Akhtar, Jhulan Goswami, R Kalpana (wk), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Suzie Bates (New Zealand), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Sophie Ecclestone (England), Shakera Selman (West Indies).
Coach: Biju George
Velocity: Mithali Raj (capt), Devika Vaidya, Ekta Bisht, Komal Zanzad, Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma (wk), Sushree Dibyadarshini, Veda Krishnamurthy Overseas bench:Danielle Wyatt (England), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh). Coach: Mamatha Maben.
(With inputs from agencies.)