Challenger Trophy set to kick off today

Gearing up: India-A trains ahead of its opening match against India-C.
| Photo Credit: P.K. Ajith Kumar

Winter is slowly setting in in this industrial city in central India. For Indian women’s cricket, the cream of which has assembled here, spring may not be far behind.

It could well be just a few months away in fact: the inaugural Women’s IPL is likely to be held next March. The professional league, which the women — not just from India — have been awaiting for years, has the potential to transform the game in the country.

The Senior Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy, which opens at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium on Sunday, could be the biggest market for talent scouts of the franchises that are planning to own the Women’s IPL teams. Much of the present and the future of Indian women’s cricket will be in action over the next one week. The only two big names missing are Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur.

Making up for the absence of two batting superstars are players like Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Yastika Bhatia and S. Meghana, all attractive strokemakers. India’s entire bowling line-up is here too, so some fascinating duels between the likes of Shafali and Pooja Vastrakar, and Jemimah and Deepti Sharma can be expect.

Players have been split into four teams. After playing each other once, the top two will square off once again in a final on November 26.

Besides impressing the talent scouts, the fringe players could also try to make the Indian squad for next month’s five-match T20 series against Australia in Mumbai. There is also the Women’s T20 World Cup to be held in South Africa next February.

“It is a great opportunity for the players, some of whom I am seeing for the first time,” said Meghana. “All the girls are excited and looking forward to the Women’s IPL.”

On the opening day, India-A meets India-C and India-B faces India-D.

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