Women’s T20 challenge kickstarts with hopes

Jaipur: Australia’s top internationals might be missing due to inter-board politics but the second edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge starting today will provide an ideal opportunity to the younger Indian players to raise their level in company of the game’s biggest stars.

Three teams — Trailblazers, Supernovas and Velocity — will play each other in the round robin format. Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas take on Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers in the opening game.

Danielle Wyatt and Stephanie Taylor are the big overseas names, who are expected to entertain the crowd with their skills. But the biggest takeaway from the four games could be the opportunity for the 27 Indian players in the three teams.

Jammu and Kashmir will also have its representation through Jasia Akhtar, the best woman player to have emerged from the valley and is expected to play her part for Mandhana’s Trailblazers team.

Hailing from Kashmir’s Shopian district, Jasia currently represents Punjab in national tournaments and has already played for India Red in the Challenger Trophy. With the BCCI slotting the match on non-IPL days and also being televised on prime time, the tournament is the kind of boost that women’s game needs in India.

India’s veteran ODI skipper Mithali Raj, who will be leading the Velocity side, feels the tournament is a “step in right direction’. ‘We need to understand that to start something different, we had to start small. Last year we had just one game and this year they have added one more team and it’s a one-leg tournament. Maybe by next year or so, we might have a full-fledged league,’ Mithali said.