By Tara Hebbar
In the third year of the Women’s T20 Challenge, the Trailblazers, led by Smriti Mandhana, stopped Harmanpreet Kaur and her Supernovas from their three- peat. The Women’s T20 Challenge, is the alternate for the IPL, in women’s cricket. Held in Dubai, due to the pandemic. It shares similar rules, such as teams can have a limit of 4 foreign players. The competition consisted of four games, all held at the Sharjah cricket stadium after the teams went through the necessary quarantine precautions, including quarantine. Though most of the players hadn’t played cricket in months following the T20 world cup, they didn’t allow this to stop them from putting up some splendid performances with both the bat and ball, even in the field. We were witness to some astonishing shots, unhittable balls and impeccable catches and saves just in a matter of 4 games.
“The first one-two months of the lockdown was good to spend time with the family. But I think in the last three-four months we got time to go out and start hitting some balls. It was a good time for all of us to go back and work on ourselves which we don’t get usually,” said Smriti Mandhana in her speech after winning, regarding the break period.
The format of the challenge goes like this; each team plays twice (against the other two), excluding the final, and the teams with the most points, battle it out in the final. In the case of a tie with the points, such as this year, the NRR (Net Run Rate) is taken into account. With Mithali Raj’s Velocity vs Harmanpreet’s Supernovas opening the series to the exciting final between the Supernovas and Trailblazers, the games didn’t fail to excite. After the devastating loss of Velocity, due to the Trailblazers phenomenal bowling (all out at 47) , the fate of themselves and Velocity was in the hands of the Supernovas, who beat the Trailblazers to make it into the final.
This season was no exception to the exciting matches with some leading performances by Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Ecclestone, Jhulan Goswami, Suneé Luus, Ekta Bisht, Jahanara Alam, Leigh Kasperek, Chamari Atapattu, Salma Khatun, Taniya Bhatia, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shashikala Siriwardene and the list goes on. Radha Yadav was named player of the series, taking 8 wickets in just 3 matches and overwhelming the Trailblazers with her 5 wickets in the finals.
After their loss, the two time champions Supernovas captain Harmanpreet Kaur said, “Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it this time. But it’s a part and parcel of the game. It wasn’t that difficult a total to chase but we failed to get two big partnerships. Sitting at home was really difficult, but we have to respect the things that are going on and be safe. Yes definitely, women’s cricket is back.” And she’s right, women’s cricket is back with a bang!
With the IPL going on simultaneously, women’s cricket never gets the attention that it ought to, this might be due to several causes, may it be the lack of games, lack of money and advertisement or the lack of acknowledgment. Although the field has come a long way since it was 10 years ago, where it was considered a joke in the face of the men’s leagues, now it holds a level of respect. There are so many talented players that deserve a platform like all the men do. Fingers cannot be pointed at anyone, but hopefully with time, it will gain the traction that IPL has. Like Smriti Mandana very rightly says – “I no longer see myself as a woman cricket, but simply as a cricketer. Why should there be labels when none are required.”
“In the end, sport is sport, cricket is cricket, the ball or the bat doesn’t care who holds it, so why should we?”
Before this year, the challenge was run by BCCI, but this year, Jio was its title sponsor. This is a big achievement, as it represents the increased interest in the tournament. After yet another successful edition of the Jio Women’s T20 challenge, we look forward to seeing the girls again, the Trailblazers, Velocity and the Supernovas as strong as ever.