On the day the BCCI finally decided to conduct the Women’s IPL at its annual general meeting at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, S. Sajana was playing a T20 game on a ground that was about an hour’s drive away from the famous hotel.
She is a 27-year-old from Wayanad, a hilly district in Kerala that rose to prominence after Rahul Gandhi contested and won at the last Lok Sabha elections. Her father is an autorickshaw driver. The off-spinning all-rounder once impressed Gautam Gambhir so much that he gifted her one of his bats.
In about five months’ time, you may perhaps get to see her in action at the Women’s IPL. India’s female cricketers like Sajana – their number is growing fast – have been waiting for the launch of the tournament for a long time.
In the past, whenever the topic of the Women’s IPL had come up, questions used to be asked about India’s depth in women’s cricket. The domestic tournaments, such as the Senior Women’s that Sajana is playing now, will tell you that the franchises will have enough players to choose from, especially when the inaugural edition of the Women’s IPL is expected to have only five teams.
Just the other day a former India cricketer was talking to this correspondent about how impressed she was with the young talents at the Senior Women’s T20 tournament. She could see girls who were power-hitting with confidence and fielding superbly.
She has received calls from multiple men’s IPL teams, who wanted to know about the players. Some of those IPL franchises had been considering investing in women’s teams for a while.
The Women’s IPL will no doubt be a massive boost for women’s cricket in the country. It could unearth fresh talents, as we have seen at the men’s IPL, and they would get to play with and against some of the best female cricketers from around the globe.
The superstars in women’s cricket have been itching to come to India for a franchise league ever since the Women’s T20 Challenge – the precursor to the Women’s IPL – was launched in 2018. Playing alongside, and against them are bound to help the Indians, especially the uncapped ones, become better.
The timing also seems to be right for the Women’s IPL, given the rise in popularity of women’s cricket in India. Players like Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Shafali Verma have huge fan-followings. The Women’s IPL should bring in new fans.