India player Veda Krishnamurthy was looking forward to watching Sabbhineni Meghana in action for the Trailblazers ahead of its opening fixture against Supernovas in the Women’s T20 Challenge.
Her performances against New Zealand earlier this year and in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy for champion Railways made her an exciting addition to the roster for the WT20C.
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“Unfortunately, Meghana was not part of the World Cup squad. She is someone I am excited to see. Someone I am closely connected to. I’ve seen her since she was a kid,” Krishnamurthy who now is part of the broadcasting team for the Indian Premier League and the WT20C said.
While Meghana missed out on making the playing XI on Monday, Krishnamurthy’s preference points to an issue the WT20C faces as it moves towards evolving into a full-fledged women’s IPL.
“As it is, it’s pretty difficult for someone who isn’t familiar with women’s cricket to be connected to these teams and this tournament. The tournament has been doing amazingly well but, to be honest unless it’s franchise-based, you can’t have a fan following that will help the tournament grow. Individual players obviously have fan bases here but unless you bring in franchises, people won’t be able to connect to the teams as well as they should.” she said.
This holds true in a situation where team rosters have changed every season and arbitrarily. With the Board of Control for Cricket in India reportedly prioritising existing men’s IPL franchises in the team creation process for the women’s variant, Krishnamurthy hopes her favourite franchise – Royal Challengers Bangalore – steps into the field.
“I’d definitely like them to get on board considering the fanbase RCB has. A big franchise like this draws a lot of people who are new to this side of the tournament and the players. Hopefully, they will choose to be involved and make a big statement. We’ve seen what that has done with the IPL in the men’s game. Women’s cricket just needs to start somewhere and we can then expect that for the women’s game too,” she added.
There’s much for the BCCI to work out in terms of fleshing out the Women’s IPL but a constant line of argument facing the concept has been its prioritisation over making the domestic framework more robust. The recently concluded Senior Women’s T20 Trophy reportedly made the BCCI decide to not allow players to head to events like FairBreak Invitational in 2022 so as to ensure their full availability for the tournament. However, neither streaming/telecast nor ball-to-ball commentary was available for any of the games.
The problem persists across genders at the domestic level. For years now, the cash-rich board has been patchy in providing consistent telecasts and accessible commentary for domestic fixtures, be it with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy or even fixtures in the Ranji Trophy.
“The knockouts were streamed last year. Because of COVID and the third wave, we couldn’t do the tournament in February and it had to be postponed to a time when IPL and a lot of other stuff is happening on TV. Sometimes you can’t find any other slot. In the men’s game also so much domestic cricket is not televised around the IPL. Because of the interest levels, people want to see domestic cricket and see who can be potential IPL players, Streaming, broadcasting, and all these things depend on the end product, and in this case that is the IPL. if that comes up, then everything else will come into play,” Krishnamurthy said.
Among the many things fans didn’t get to see, like Kiran Navgire’s explosive batting, Harleen Deol’s quickfire century and Maharashtra’s Aarti Kedar, and Maya Sonawane’s bowling in tandem was Shafali Varma the captain.
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Deepti Sharma finding herself in more leadership roles and the likes of Varma being considered for full-fledged captaincy at the domestic level bodes well for an ecosystem that is seeing the presence of veterans Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami fade.
“A few things you need to look for in a leader are how well they read the game and their ability to think through play and see what’s to be done. Not all good players make good leaders, but the ability to soak in pressure and make decisions is crucial,” Krishnamurthy said.
“If I am involved in picking players to be groomed, I’d go for someone who can stay calm and get through the job. Watching how they react on the field, and their conversations with their existing captains and coaches can give us an idea about aptitude. You find your potential leaders though and put them in a group that’s given leadership roles and occasionally throw them under the bus to test out what they can do,” she added.
Watch the Women’s T20 Challenge and IPL playoffs on Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar