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Desert Mirage: Indian Women Cricketers’ Four-Day Long 2020 Season Begins in UAE

Indian women’s cricket season finally kicks off after seven long months of hiatus with the Women’s T20 Challenge 2020 where the top Indian cricketers will team up with top players from England, South Africa, West Indies, Bangladesh and New Zealand in a four match tournament held in Sharjah between November 4 to November 8.
Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj, the skippers of the three teams in the IPL Women's T20 Challenge

Skippers of the three teams in the IPL Women’s T20 Challenge: (From Left) Smriti Mandhana (Trailblazers), Harmanpreet Kaur (Supernovas) and Mithali Raj (Velocity).

Indian women’s cricket season will finally kick off in the UAE after a seven months hiatus with the Women’s T20 Challenge 2020. The tournament will see top Indian cricketers team up with top players from England, South Africa, West Indies, Bangladesh and New Zealand in a four match tournament. The tournament was started in 2018 albeit as a one off match, while last year, it was played between three teams in Jaipur.

The three teams in the fray are the Supernovas, Trailblazers and Velocity. The matches will be held from November 4-8. All teams have 15 players each and include four foreign players. Harmanpreet Kaur leads the Supernovas while Smriti Mandana is captain of Trailblazers and Mithali Raj of Velocity. 

All matches except one will be held at 7.30 IST (6 pm local time) and the match on November 5 will begin at 3:30 pm IST (2pm local time). 

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Foreign players for the Supernovas include Ayabonga Khaka from South Africa, captain of the Sri Lanka’s women’s team, Chamari Atapattu, her compatriot Shashikala Siriwardene and the West Indies’ Shakera Selman. England’s Sophie Ecclestone, the No.1 bowler in Women’s  T20 cricket, Deandra Dottin and Bangladesh’s Salma Khatun, along with Thailand’s Nattakan Chantam will be seen in action for the Trailblazers. Velocity will host the Englishwoman Danielle Wyatt, South Africa’s Suné Luus, Leigh Kasperek from New Zealand and Bangladesh’s  Jahanara Alam. 

One of the big setbacks for the tournament is the fact that no Australians will feature in the latest edition, something that was to be expected. The tournament clashes with the ongoing Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in Australia. In fact as early as August Alyssa Healy had criticised the timing of the BCCI’s tournament because of the clash with the WBBL tweeting sarcastically: “So during the WBBL…. Cool”. 

In a subsequent post she questioned the sense in holding two marquee tournaments for the shortest format of the women’s game at the same time and therefore denying players the opportunity to lengthen their calendar and play both — more so in a year where competitive action has been hard to find. 

It is important to note that the board pays Rs. 1 lakh per match to every player who features in the final XI, according to a BCCI official. Reserve players get Rs 50,000 each per game. The WBBL figures for 2018-19, when Indians last featured Down Under, started from Rs 25 lakh over a minimum of 14 matches. 

The women’s team underwent quarantine for a period of six days at the team hotel and have been tested at regular intervals for Covid-19 and allowed to train thereafter.

The round-robin format tournament will provide Indian women their first action since the T20 World Cup earlier this year. It may also be the last one they play this year, with no further matches scheduled in the calendar. The England tour for the women’s team, which was scheduled for June-July this year, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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