BCCI plans more matches for India women

India celebrate their successful review against Heather Knight Getty Images

The India women's team is set to get a fixtures boost, with the BCCI planning to schedule more ODIs and T20Is for them in coming years. As part of the BCCI's plans, India will play ODI bilateral series outside the ICC Women's Championship (IWC) and a few extra T20Is leading into the next two Women's World T20s in November 2018 in the West Indies and in 2020 in Australia.

The added fixtures come as a contrast to India's schedule in recent times. The team finished runners-up in the 2017 Women's World Cup, but did not play a single international match for over six months after that final on July 23 at Lord's.

In the four-year cycle of the IWC from 2017 to 2020, the top eight teams play each other either home or away for a total of 21 matches each. The Indian team is now going to play a bilateral series of three ODIs against England at home next month, which won't be counted towards the IWC, to give them "more exposure," according to the BCCI. Those three matches in Nagpur will be played after a T20 tri-series between India, England and Australia - both 2017 World Cup finalists and a semi-finalist - in Mumbai starting March 22. The tri-series will follow the ongoing ODI series between India and Australia in Vadodara, which is part of the IWC.

"We are arranging bilateral series with different countries so our women will get more exposure," a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo. "We will be playing England and then travel to Sri Lanka. Then we will be going to New Zealand for another bilateral series in February-March 2019."

While the three ODIs in Sri Lanka in the summer and in New Zealand early next year will be part of the IWC, India will also play five T20Is in Sri Lanka as a build-up to the World T20 later this year. India are also scheduled to participate in the Asia Cup, scheduled for June, which will be played in the T20 format. India had also played five T20Is against South Africa last month, and won 3-1.

"We have already played in South Africa. And by the time we play in Sri Lanka we would have played most of the countries other than New Zealand and West Indies," the BCCI official said.

As part of the first cycle of the IWC, which ran from 2014 to 2016, the ODI bilateral series between the top eight teams often comprised four or five matches even though only three of them counted for IWC points. However, in the current IWC cycle (2017-2020), each bilateral ODI series can have only three ODIs, but the teams can play T20I matches, like earlier, on the same tour.

Member boards are also free to organise separate bilateral ODI tours outside the compulsory IWC matches. For example, India and England are set to play three ODIs in April but the IWC window for those two teams is scheduled for the fourth round during the October 2018-February 2019 period, when England women will have to tour India again.

ESPNcricinfo understands the BCCI is also planning to schedule the Indian team's departure for the World T20 in November a few weeks in advance to help the team acclimatise to the conditions and prepare better. It will be a welcome step for India as they failed to reach the World T20 semi-finals in its last three editions in 2012, 2014 and 2016.