Mithali Raj, India women's ODI captain, believes the BCCI has done whatever it could to organise the women's T20 Challenge alongside the IPL in the UAE. The scheduling of the three-team tournament from November 1-10 has drawn criticism from a number of prominent internationals like Alyssa Healy and Suzie Bates, as it clashes with the WBBL.
"I personally thought we may not even get to play the Challenger trophy [T20 Challenge] because even the men''s IPL was in doubt, but these games are most welcome," Raj told PTI. "I know a lot of people have questioned the timing, but these are not normal circumstances. Normally, the IPL happens in April-May and doesn't collide with WBBL. But these are unusual circumstances, the window was a short one and the BCCI did the best it could."
Until last week, the tournament was a non-starter and it was widely believed that the women players could head into next year's 50-over World Cup without having played any competitive cricket for 11 months. India's tour of England in July was called off with the board citing lack of preparedness. The only way of avoiding a clash with the WBBL - which is set to run from October 17 to November 29 - under current circumstances would have been by scheduling the T20 Challenge during the start of the IPL season on September 19.
Raj believes this move wouldn't have been feasible. The women's team - like the men's team - are yet to resume training, and haven't played any competitive cricket since the T20 World Cup final against Australia on March 9. "Even if we were to shift the Women''s Challenge to September, the girls would not be ready," she said. "Australia and New Zealand players have had more time than us to start their preparations for the season. Nobody understands this but are quick to judge."
"It [their frustration] is understandable. They [foreign players] also want to be part of the event. I too want the best players in the league. But the situation is not normal. Right now, there is hardly any sporting activity in India and to have the matches before the men's IPL, it would require players to be in match mode. We are yet to start training."
Last week, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly announced the board had not just planned for a short T20 tournament for the women, but also a home series against South Africa and a tour of the Caribbean. Raj has welcomed the possibility of the revised schedule, even if there is still an air of uncertainty.
"We have four series scheduled before World Cup but we are yet to get the dates," she said. "When the England tour got cancelled, players faced a lot of uncertainty and if there is nothing ahead you don''t what know you prepare for. So the news of staging the IPL games is much needed.
"More than the T20 Challenge games, I am relieved to have some cricket starting. That gives hope to other players to look forward to training and plan the season and not be in that uncertain mode. From what I heard we are going to have a camp sometime in September-October. That should help the team to re-group and assess themselves and accordingly plan ahead for the coming series."