A good start, but more needs to be done

While the growth of women's cricket through the shortest format has been vast and rapid, the clamour for the longer format of the game at the domestic level had been slowly gathering steam.
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 14:19 IST
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 14:19 IST

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Bengaluru: The Women’s Premier League (WPL), with five teams, might have been a runaway hit - a catalyst for the renaissance of women's cricket in the country and beyond. 

While the growth of women's cricket through the shortest format has been vast and rapid, the clamour for the longer format of the game at the domestic level had been slowly gathering steam. And the news of red-ball cricket making a comeback after a gap of six years on the domestic women’s circuit received a big thumbs-up.

The BCCI reintroduced the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Multi-day Trophy with each game being a three-day affair. Six teams were involved in five matches in Pune from March 28 to April 11. 

"It's a great initiative by the BCCI," said Diana David, coach of the South Zone team that finished runners-up after suffering a 1-wicket loss to East Zone, led by India international Deepti Sharma, in the final. "Because the quality of a player is on full display only in such a multi-day format. Players need patience and resilience to sustain for three or more days on the trot. That’s very important, especially for the upcoming generation who are fed a steady diet of T20s."  

All the ties went well into the second half of the third and final day, testing the physical limits and mental fortitude of several players who had little or no prior experience of playing multi-day cricket. The positives, therefore, weren’t without the challenges.  

“A few of the girls were unaware of the planning that goes behind competing in a longer format because they had never played one before,” pointed out the 39-year-old former India player. 

“Things such as what strategy to deploy after two days of play based on the situation of the match we were in, when to declare or not or how to manage the tempo of the game. So it was important for me to educate them about all these nuances,” said Diana. 

Besides the permutations and combinations of playing long-form cricket, the biggest hurdle for the teams turned out to be weather conditions. Given the heat-wave gripping across India, the timing of the long-awaited tournament could have been scheduled better, opined Diana. 

“The weather conditions were really harsh in Pune. Plus the food was bad. Most of our players fell sick. Some of them were taken to the hospital after the end of day’s play but despite this the girls got back on the ground the next morning. We used our reserve player, the 12th woman, to rotate. One girl would come out to rest for a few overs. That’s how we managed,” offered Diana. 

For Sahana Pawar and Roshini Kiran - the two Karnataka girls in the South Zone squad - playing a multi-day format was not only a test of their skillset and character but it was also about the excitement of rubbing shoulders with some of the best current Indian women cricketers. 

“I had played two-day matches during my U-19 days. So I was eager to compete again after years,” said 27-year-old Sahana, a left-arm spinner. 

Speaking about the change in practice, Sahana explained: “The moment I got picked for the team, I spoke to my trainer and changed my fitness routine. Those two weeks were mostly endurance-based because I wanted my body to be ready to field for 100 overs in two days. I also got to play a few one-dayers against the visiting Lancashire women’s side (two one-dayers and a T20) organised by KSCA. So that helped.”

The 19-year-old batter Roshini, who grew up mostly playing the T20s, was thrilled to share the ground playing against the likes of Smriti Mandhana and Yastika Bhatia.

“...For me, it was more about learning apart from getting an opportunity to play your natural game. Having the mindset and determination of going on regardless of the weather conditions was the key. This format demands us being even more cautious and mentally more focussed than we usually are," explained Roshini when asked about the lessons she learnt from playing the tournament. 

The learnings are aplenty besides the fact that red-ball cricket makes well-rounded cricketers. More multi-day tournaments at the age group level within the states, zones and the national level is the way forward. 

“I have been told that they (BCCI) are introducing an under-19 event soon. A tournament with two-day games would be a good start in that direction,” summed up Diana.

Published 16 April 2024, 14:19 IST

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