India women's cricket team captain Mithali Raj has lauded the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) initiative to host the Women's T20 Challenge — the one-off exhibition T20 game, involving superstar women's cricketers from across the globe, saying a proper women's league will only help the young cricketers in the country.
The batting legend, who led the Indian team to the final of Women's World Cup in 2017, labelled the one-off T20 match "historic and momentous".
In what is being touted as "significant step towards a prospective league involving women's stars in future", the T20 match sees India's celebrated women's cricketers Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur are leading the IPL Trailblazers and the Supernovas, respectively.
The match, which is currently underway at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, features 26 cricketers, including 10 foreign stars from England, Australia and New Zealand.
Apart from Team India regulars, budding teenagers, Jemimah Rodrigues and Pooja Vastrakar have got the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in the business.
Why should Indian girls be behind?: Raj
"Well, I am also excited. I have never been part of something like this. I have been part of the World XI against the MCC but this is more of an IPL and it's an initiative by BCCI and IPL officials. It's historic and momentous for all the Indian players," Raj told Star Sports during the T20 match on Tuesday.
She added: "It's an opportunity for all of us to interact with the best and play with the best and project the best brand of women's cricket.
"Well, I think in the World Cup we saw how the standard of women's cricket has gone up with the leagues in Australia and England.
"So why should our girls be behind? If you play these leagues, the young kids in the team have a higher chance of improving and in a quick phase. And that will only be benefitting to Indian cricket."
Despite the lack of crowd on a hot Tuesday afternoon in Mumbai, the women played some high-quality cricket. Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy and Ellyse Perry of the Supernovas took some breathtaking catching to restrict the Trailblazers to just 129 in 20 overs.
Despite being late to jump the bandwagon, the BCCI's initiative is heartening and just, given the reception Indian women's cricketers have been receiving ever since their eye-catching performances at the World Cup in England last year.
While Australia have had a professional league — the successful Women's Big Bash League — from 2015/16 season, England's Women's Cricket Super League was launched in 2016.
Despite not having their own league, Indian players of the likes of Kaur, Mandhana and Krishnamurthy have represented WBBL teams in the past.
One could only hope the BCCI builds on the Women's T20 Challenge initiative and takes the necessary steps towards organising a full-fledged IPL-style women's league in the country.
I have no doubt that the time is right for the start of a women's IPL. 4 teams seems right for now, maybe 5 with a slightly higher foreign player component to begin with.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) May 22, 2018