New Delhi: When India suffered a narrow five-run loss against Australia in the semifinal of the Women's T20 World Cup on Thursday, many fans and experts felt that the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side should have won the game given that they were cruising comfortably towards the target at one point of time.
But India crumbled under pressure to get knocked out of the tournament.
It wasn't that the Indian team faltered for the first time in knockout games of ICC events. And, coincidentally, Australia -- the firm favourites to win the tournament -- have beaten the Women in Blue in the knockouts of global tournaments quite frequently in the recent past.
There is no doubt that five-time T20 World Cup champions Australia are formidable and ruthless, but they are beatable too. In fact, it's the Indian team which seems to have that talent to beat the Aussies in an ICC event, but perhaps they lack big-match temperament and professionalism.
And the arrival of Women's Premier League (WPL) will certainly bridge that gap and can transform them into a world-beating side.
Over the years, Australia and England have dominated women's cricket as their cricket boards invested in building a world-beating talent pipeline, while women's cricket in India not coming under the BCCI umbrella for many years harmed them financially, which led them to suffer in other aspects as well.
Ever since the BCCI started to administer women's cricket in 2006, things got better year by year, be it domestic or international cricket.
But, women's cricket in India needed something big to take a giant leap and the inaugural edition of WPL, beginning March 4, is a massive opportunity for players to help them shatter the glass ceilings and propose cricket as a financially viable career choice to the generations that will follow. The Women's Big Bash League (WBBL), the Australian women's T20 competition, has been credited for producing a large pool of talented and skilful players, which has benefited their women's national team. Even if any of their star players goes out or misses the game for any reason, they have the replacements and back-up options ready.
India certainly don't have that luxury, but WPL will certainly change that. The league will act as the nursing ground for talent. What IPL did to men's cricket, WPL has the potential to do the same for women's cricket in the country.
Not only capped Indian players will share the dressing room with the stars of other teams, domestic cricketers as well as U-19 players will get the opportunity to rub shoulders with the legends of the game and get valuable tips from them.
Apart from players, the WPL also promises to throw a spotlight on the exceptional Indian coaches and backroom staff, who otherwise don't get much recognition.
Former India spinner Nooshin al Khadeer, who was at the helm when a Shafali Verma-led U-19 team lifted the T20 World Cup last month and had led Railways to many domestic titles over the years, was among the first ones to be roped in by Ahmedabad, which has also appointed former Australia vice-captain Rachael Haynes as the head coach despite no prior experience. On the other hand, veterans Anju Jain (Lucknow), Devieka Palshikaar (Mumbai) and Hemlata Kala (Delhi) will also be in their most high-profile coaching jobs yet.
The stalwarts of the game -- Mithali Raj (Ahmedabad team mentor), Charlotte Edwards and Jhulan Goswami (Mumbai head coach and mentor, respectively), and Lisa Sthalekar (Lucknow team mentor) -- will be some of the biggest decision makers in the league. Without even a ball being bowled, WPL has generated quite a buzz, and it will certainly lift the game to newer heights once it gets rolling.—IANS