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136 wides in U-19 match underline gap in women's cricket structure

As many as 136 wides were conceded in the match between Nagaland and Manipur on the opening day of the BCCI's Under-19 Women's North East Championship in Dhanbad on Wednesday. Manipur bowled 94 wides in an extras column that read 112, while Nagaland, a shade better, conceded 42 out of 45 extras in the form of wides. For the record, Nagaland, who were bowled out for 215 in 38 overs, won by 117 runs, with only two batsmen crossing double digits - Muskhan and Pori made 54 and 24 respectively. Manipur were bowled out for 98 in 27.3 overs, with Ronibala Thockhom's 62-ball 24 being the highest.

An official who was present at the match said both teams struggled to bowl on one bounce to the batsmen. "Forget about being accurate, balls were barely reaching the other end as well, which raises questions about the preparedness," he told ESPNcricinfo. "The gap in standards between the top sides and the rest is huge in women's cricket. Even at training, you could see coaches working their level best at their bowling and fielding drills. You can't question them for effort, they were trying hard."

This is the first time six north-eastern states - Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim - have been cleared to participate in the BCCI's Under-19 women's tournament, through the addition of a new tournament specifically for the north-east sides and Bihar. This follows a clearance from the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators as part of a move to integrate the sides into the BCCI set-up. Mizoram, however, will not field a team for the tournament due to paperwork issues regarding their affiliation.

The addition of the North East zone takes the total number of zonal sides to six - North, South, East, West and Central being the others. The top two sides from each zone qualify for the Super League, with top two sides from each pool of four qualifying for the semi-finals.

Mamta Maben, the former India women captain, who coaches at the age-group level, felt the structure had to be strengthened before talks of a robust T20 league on the lines of the Women's Big Bash League and the Super League came into the picture.

"Some teams down south are very competitive, but if you look at the overall picture, there's still some way to go," she said. "North East sides have to be given more time. Changes will not happen overnight. They're just coming into the system now, so to get to the standards of the top teams will need lot of investment and time. Which is why, I don't think we can aspire for an eight-team T20 league any time soon. Maybe three or four is the most, with foreign players coming in. We'll be diluting the system if we try and look to make up the numbers."

The Board also officially included a North East zone in the domestic calendar for this year's men's U-16 Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the U-23 CK Nayudu Trophy. In 2016-17, the BCCI had instituted a combined associate and affiliate side for Under-19 Vinoo Mankad (inter-state 50-over) Trophy following a selection tournament.