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Is the Women's T20 Challenge still on?

The three-team tournament was scheduled for IPL's playoff week in November, but BCCI's silence has left players anxious

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana pose before the 2019 edition of the Women's T20 Challenge  •  PTI

Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana pose before the 2019 edition of the Women's T20 Challenge  •  PTI

On August 2, while announcing that the 2020 IPL would be held in the UAE, the BCCI said it would also be conducting the Women's T20 Challenge during the week when the men's playoffs are scheduled. While announcing the IPL schedule on September 6, the BCCI made no mention of the dates for the T20 Challenge. That has left the women players uncertain about whether the T20 Challenge will take place. ESPNcricinfo looks at some key questions surrounding the tournament.
What is the latest with the Women's T20 Challenge?
There has been no development since BCCI announced in August that the tournament would be played in the IPL playoffs week in the UAE. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had confirmed to PTI in August that the T20 Challenge was "very much on." The event will comprise three teams, and have seven matches, with two round-robin stages and a final.
Is there any specific venue for the T20 Challenge?
It is understood that none of the three venues - Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah - have been formally told to be ready to host the tournament.
Is the event happening, then?
With the IPL final scheduled for November 10, the BCCI still has about 45 days to go for the T20 Challenge, assuming it sticks to the schedule originally announced. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, players and support staff will need to enter the bio-secure bubble a month in advance, a protocol followed by all eight IPL franchises. Also with overseas women's players likely to be involved, the process needs to start sooner rather than later to avoid logistical and travel hurdles.
What are the players saying?
Several players ESPNcricinfo spoke with confirmed there has been no form of communication on the T20 Challenge from the BCCI. There has been no mention on the standard operating procedures [SOPs] which include both the testing and quarantine processes for Covid-19.
Have players started training?
With local governments in India not allowing any mass gatherings, players have had to resort to individual training at home with limited resources. The biggest challenge for Indian players especially is that they have not trained and played for more than six months. So fitness becomes a key hurdle, and the silence from the BCCI has added to a sense of despondency.
What about the Indian players playing in the 2020 Women's Big Bash League?
The WBBL is scheduled to start in late October. There was a possibility of three prominent Indian players - Indian women's captain Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma - heading to Australia, but doubts emerged after the BCCI did not grant them the NOCs. Originally those players were meant to be part of the Indian squad that was to travel to England in August, but that series had to be postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Further, Ganguly also mentioned plans about hosting West Indies women, and the BCCI is also exploring a window for a bilateral series against Sri Lanka. The clash with the T20 Challenge was another reason no Indian player could potentially feature in this year's WBBL.
Does that mean the top Australian players will miss out on the T20 Challenge?
Yes, they won't be available for a second year running. Australia fielded the biggest contingent of overseas players for the tournament's inaugural edition in 2018, but they weren't available last year as Cricket Australia wanted to give their players enough preparation time for the Women's Ashes in England.
What about other overseas players?
ESPNcricinfo understands that a number of overseas players waited for some form of communication from BCCI about the tournament, but the lack of clarity led to them signing WBBL deals.
Who are the top non-Aussie players playing the WBBL?
Suzie Bates, Laura Wolvaardt, Shabnim Ismail, Amelia Kerr, Hayley Matthews, Amy Satterthwaite, Mignon du Preez and Dane van Niekerk are among the top internationals to have signed up with different franchises.
Who is left then?
A number of England players haven't still signed WBBL deals, so they could potentially feature in the T20 Challenge. Also some of the West Indies women, who are currently touring England for a three-match T20I series, could travel to the UAE if the T20 Challenge goes ahead. The BCCI could also invite a few top players from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to make up the numbers.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo