Shantha Rangaswamy. (TOI Photo)MUMBAI: At a time when women's cricket in India has grabbed the limelight with the Indian women's team winning a silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, young girls wishing to take up the sport as a career option have received a setback.
Even though it has introduced a new U-16 women's One-Day tournament for women cricketers, the Board has come under fire for having shelved the Women's Under-23 One-Day and T20 Trophies from the domestic calendar for the 2022-23 season.
Following heavy backlash from current and former India women's cricketers, former India women's team captain and currently the BCCI's Apex Council member Shantha Rangaswamy will request the Board to restore the Women's domestic Under-23 tournaments for the upcoming season.
"I plan to request the BCCI office-bearers in the next Apex Council meeting (hopefully there will be a meeting before my tenure ends) that the Board must restore the Women's Under-23 domestic tournaments, come what may. It's simply because we need to widen the base of women's cricket. There must be more women cricketers playing in India, especially because the BCCI plans to start the Women's IPL in India next year. A move like this could be counter-productive. I agree it didn't strike me earlier, but following a lot of introspection and feedback from former and current women cricketers, I feel that this would be a retrograde step. I'm hoping that the Women's Under-23 events will be restored," Rangaswamy told TOI on Tuesday.
Explaining why the U-23 tournaments are crucial to the development of women's cricket in the country, Rangaswamy said, "My worry is that if these U-23 tournaments are removed, a lot of girls will quit the game after the Under-19 level because their prospects of playing at the senior level in the XI will be minimal. In many of the states, especially the Plate Group, the Under-23 Women, form the fulcrum of the team. However, that's not the case in the Elite Group-where teams like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengal, Tamil Nadu Karnataka are all of a good standard. In these sides, the U-23 women cricketers may be a part of the squad, but might not get to play in the XI. That would trigger frustration among them."
Rangaswamy was informed in the BCCI's Apex Council meeting in July about the decision to remove the Women's U-23 tournaments, which has faced a major backlash from all quarters. "It was brought to my notice by the BCCI president (Sourav Ganguly). Ostensibly, they've removed the Women's U-23 tournaments because they're introducing a Women's Under-16 from this season on an all-India basis. They are also reintroducing the Women's Senior ODI and T20 Zonal tournaments. I don't know why they were removed earlier. It's a good step to go back to the zonal system in the Duleep Trophy too," she said.
The domestic calendar for the 2022-23 season released by the BCCI on Monday includes nine women's domestic tournaments. They are 1) Senior T20 Trophy, 2) Inter-Zonal T20, 3) T20 Challenger Trophy, 4) Senior One-Day Trophy, 5) Senior InterZonal One-Day, 6) Under-19 T20, 7) U-19 T20 Challenger Trophy, 8) U-19 One-Day Trophy, 9) Under-16 One-Day Trophy.