India's women cricketers will gear up for the Twenty20 World Cup in England next June with their first-ever domestic Twenty20 competition. The calendar for the next year, which has been fixed by the Indian board, sees the inter-state tournament staged in April, after the 50-over World Cup in Australia.
The board members met with the women's national selectors, Indian captain Mithali Raj, vice-captain Jhulan Goswami, coach Shanta Rangaswamy, and others in Mumbai to assess domestic and international engagements of the past season and make plans for the forthcoming one, which includes India's tours to England and Australia.
Raj has long stressed the need for a domestic Twenty20 competition if India are to perform reasonably well at the inaugural women's World Cup, which will be held alongside the men's tournament. The girls need to get used to playing Twenty20," Raj said. "Earlier it was just a bang-bang format but now there is a lot more thought going in to how to space your innings etc."
Shubhangi Kulkarni, the convenor of the BCCI's women's committee, who also attended the meeting, said the Challenger Trophy, organised for the first time for women this February, had got a positive response. "A lot of young players were picked for the Asia Cup through the tournament," Kulkarni told Cricinfo. "Railways has always been the strongest side in the domestic circuit but in Challengers, the Railways players were in different teams and younger players got a chance to play with seniors so this is a tournament we will continue with."
It was also decided to tweak the inter-state one-day tournament so that the second leg of matches, previously played in a knockout format, will now be organised as league games to increase the number of matches played during the season.
With the World Cup in Australia only nine months away, the selectors hope to pin down the squad after the tours to England, in August, and Australia, in November. "We will have two camps before they leave for England and these two tours should be good practice ahead of the World Cup," Kulkarni said.
In an effort to find young talent, the board had organised a camp for coaches at the National Cricket Academy in January; 31 of the 35 players who attended the camp have passed the Level I coaching test. Kulkarni said the board expected state associations to employ these coaches in training and identifying young players. "We want the states to focus on the grassroots this year."
India's international calendar is much busier this year than it was last year where they played only one tournament - the Quadrangular Series in Chennai - in February 2007. England and Australia will be tough tours and could provide the right conditions to identify potential players for the two World Cups.