In a bid to promote and test the feasibility of a potential T20 league for women, the BCCI will be hosting an exhibition match ahead of the first IPL Qualifier on May 22 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. India T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana will lead the two sides which will feature several internationals from India, Australia, New Zealand and England.
The BCCI has confirmed the participation of New Zealand captain Suzie Bates and allrounder Sophie Devine, Australia allrounder Ellyse Perry, wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, medium-pacer Megan Schutt and batsman Beth Mooney. England's Danielle Wyatt, who struck a blistering 124 against India in a record T20I chase in March, will also feature in the match alongside her national team-mate Danielle Hazell, who earned her career-best ODI figures during the ODI series in Nagpur. New Zealand pacer Lea Tahuhu is also in the mix.
"Even as IPL continues to roll like a well-oiled machine, over the last couple of weeks, efforts were made to put in place a similar structure for women cricketers," IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla said. "We were in talks with several Boards and I am pleased with the outcome."
The BCCI's move comes in the wake of India's middling home season where they suffered a 3-0 ODI whitewash against Australia, before failing to make the final of a T20I tri-series. India then survived a scare in a match highly reminiscent of last year's World Cup final to beat England in the opener of a subsequent bilateral ODI series in Nagpur. The hosts eventually won 2-1.
Ahead of the tri-series, India ODI captain Mithali Raj and pace spearhead Jhulan Goswami had turned down calls of a women's T20 league in India on the grounds of a shallow domestic talent pool.
"We need players [to] make up India A. Once we have those many players, then I think it would be wise for us to have an IPL," Raj said in March.
Diana Edulji, the former India captain and member of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) that oversees the BCCI, said the exhibition match would be a good opportunity for the Indian players to showcase their skills. "BCCI has been pulling out all stops to promote and nurture women's cricket and this is a small yet significant step towards a prospective league involving women's stars in the future," she said. "The IPL is the biggest and most popular league in the world and it has been a long-time endeavour to have a women's league that can match the exuberance of IPL. Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishanmurthy among others rubbing shoulders with foreign stars will be a unique experience and something that we have not witnessed here in India."
The Women's T20 Challenge also provides some of the high-profile Indian players, including Harmanpreet, Veda and Raj, a chance to find form ahead of the Asia Cup in June. The match will begin at 2pm IST and will be telecast across the world, unlike India's most-recent assignment - the ODI series against England - which was limited to a livestream on the BCCI website.