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'A step ahead' – Mithali Raj happy with Women's T20 Challenge series

IPL 12, news

Mithali Raj, highest scorer in women's international cricket and captain of Velocity, feels that the Women’s T20 Challenge series is a big improvement from last year and has the potential to turn into a full-fledged league.

Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana will captain the three sides - Velocity, Supernovas and Trailblazers respectively in the T20 Challenge that begins from 6 May. The three teams will play four matches at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur with Supernovas taking on Trailblazers in the tournament opener. Compared to last year's lone exhibition match, this year's edition is a marked improvement.

"It is a step ahead," Raj said at the pre-tournament press conference on Saturday, 4 May. "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 league."

The foundations for what could evolve into a full T20 league have been laid, but the onus is now on the players to do well and aid the process, according to Raj. "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.

Last year we had just one game and this year they have added one more team. Maybe by next year or so we might have a league

Mithali Raj

"So that will probably encourage the BCCI or the franchises to come forward to start a proper league," she added.

 
All three captains are of the opinion that this will be a great opportunity for domestic players to showcase their talents. Like the Indian Premier League, the tournament could help identify prospective stars.
 

"This offers an opportunity for our young players in domestic cricket to interact with some of the best in the world. When you get at least two games, you could field several youngsters, who could benefit from competing with overseas players," said Raj.

Mandhana, captain of Trailblazers and the No. 1 batter in MRF Tyres ICC Women's ODI Rankings, also agreed with Raj and added, "It is also an ideal opportunity for seniors like us to play against our own younger players. With the T20 World Cup just 10 months away, we could find out which players would perform well under pressure."

New Zealand stars Amelia Kerr and Suzie Bates will feature in the Women's T20 Challenge
New Zealand stars Amelia Kerr and Suzie Bates will feature in the Women's T20 Challenge

Meanwhile, Harmanpreet, Supernovas' skipper, expressed her pleasure over the venue selection "It has improved a lot since we last played here four or five years ago," she said. "The wicket looked good for T20 cricket; we have seen teams making good scores in the IPL."

Apart from all the big names from Indian cricket, the tournament will also feature some of the big names from around the world. Players from England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh will be participating in the tournament that concludes with the final on 11 May.