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‘Cannot wait forever’ – Mithali Raj wants women’s IPL from 2021

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Mithali Raj, Indian Women’s ODI captain, believes the BCCI should not “wait forever” to organise the women’s IPL, and wants the inaugural tournament to be held in 2021. Raj, currently the most experienced player in women’s cricket, said that the women’s IPL could initially be on a “smaller scale”.

“I personally feel they should start a women’s IPL by next year, even if it’s on a slightly smaller scale and with some changes in rules, such as, say, have five to six foreign players in the first edition instead of four as is the case with the men’s IPL,” Raj told ESPNcricinfo in an extensive chat.

Raj is the second formidable voice in Indian cricket to urge the BCCI to start the women’s IPL soon. Soon after India lost to Australia in the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup last month, Sunil Gavaskar had said it made “sense” to start the women’s IPL because that would only “earn” more young talent that could make India Women win global titles.

The BCCI acknowledged the growing popularity of women’s T20Is and had scheduled to have a four-team contest in this year’s Women’s T20 Challenge with seven matches compared to last year’s four. These were to run parallel to the men’s IPL playoffs, but the tournament has now been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had said that a full-fledged women’s IPL was at least “four years away” when he took charge last October, mainly because India’s talent pool was thin.

Raj agreed with Ganguly but like Gavaskar, she believed that a women’s IPL would only boost the numbers. She also suggested some of the existing IPL franchises could own teams to facilitate the women’s tournament. “I agree we don’t have the depth in the domestic pool yet, but the key is to get the existing franchises to form teams, even if [only] five or six of them are keen to begin the process because in any case, the BCCI was going to have four teams [in the Women’s T20 Challenge].

“You cannot wait forever; you have to begin at some point, and gradually, year by year, you can keep evolving the league and then bring it down to four foreign players.”

To emphasise her point, Raj gave the example of 16-year-old sensation Shafali Verma, who was one of the most impressive batters in the recent T20 World Cup. Raj had led Verma at Velocity in last year’s Women’s T20 Challenge which the Haryana teenager used as a springboard to get the India cap in September later in 2019.

Raj said Verma was the “biggest takeaway” for India from the T20 World Cup and deserved a chance in ODIs too. “It’s not a bad idea to consider her for the ODIs. She is young but that should not be a criterion for not giving her opportunities in the ODI side.”

“Appalled at such news” – on sexual harassment allegations against Atul Bedade

Among the various topics Raj spoke about during the interview, she also weighed in on the sexual harassment allegations against former India batsman Atul Bedade, who was recently suspended as head coach of Baroda Women.

“It’s too early for me or anyone to comment on the matter or come to a conclusion until the truth is established,” Raj said. “It would not be right on my part or anyone else’s to judge someone based on an article, but as a woman athlete, I am surprised and appalled at such news emerging because when there’s so much progress taking place in cricket and other sports in terms of empowering women, when the administrators, the athletes, many of you in the media – we all are trying to get women’s sports up to a level, these things make you wonder ‘what is happening?'”

The full interview will be published on The Cricket Monthly on March 27.



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Recent Match Report – Delhi Capitals vs Kings XI Punjab 2nd Match 2020

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Delhi Capitals 157 for 8 (Stoinis 53, Iyer 39, Pant 31, Shami 3-15, Cottrell 2-24) beat Kings XI Punjab 157 for 8 (Agarwal 89, Ashwin 2-2, Rabada 2-28, Stoinis 2-29) via the Super Over

Seam movement and bounce with the new ball. A 20-ball half-century that came out of nowhere. A two-wicket over ending with a nasty injury. A slow-burning, calculated rescue act that all but aced a tricky chase. A short run that wasn’t. Then, with one run required from three balls, somehow, Marcus Stoinis, who had also been the Capitals’ gamechanger with the bat, produced a dot and two wickets.

The second match of IPL 2020 contained pretty much everything, until an anticlimactic Super Over handed two points to the Delhi Capitals and heartbreak to the Kings XI Punjab, particularly to Mayank Agarwal whose 89 off 60 balls had rescued them from an abject 55 for 5 in their chase of 158.

Just as he was against the Kolkata Knight Riders last season, Kagiso Rabada was the Capitals’ Super Over hero. He took out KL Rahul with a well-directed bouncer, which following the batsman’s premeditated movement towards the leg side, and bowled Nicholas Pooran next ball. Pooran’s slog across the line wouldn’t have been cause for too much censure in the regular part of a T20 game, but it was an unwise shot off the third ball of a Super Over, in which teams are only allowed two wickets.

That left the Capitals just three runs to get, and they completed the job with no additions to the day’s quota of twists and turns.

A fast bowlers’ pitch

With only three venues hosting this tournament, the pitches will, at some point, slow down and offer plenty of assistance to the spinners. For now, though, they’re keeping the fast bowlers interested. Saturday’s surface in Abu Dhabi had a healthy covering of grass. Today’s pitch in Dubai was well-grassed too, and offered seam movement and plenty of bounce. Both teams filled two of their overseas slots with fast bowlers.

It was an Indian quick, however, who made the most of the early help. Delivering with his trademark upright seam, Mohammed Shami nipped the ball around, got it to spring off the pitch, and sent back Prithvi Shaw and Shimron Hetmyer in his second over. He had two catches dropped in his first over too, but one of them – Rahul putting Shikhar Dhawan down off a gloved hook – turned into a run-out.

A recovery, and an eye-catching debut

From 13 for 3 at the four-over mark, there was a bit of rebuilding to be done for the Capitals. Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant ensured they wouldn’t lose another wicket for another 10 overs, but the Capitals’ run rate remained in check. Staying below 6 an over even at the 12-over mark.

One of the main reasons for this was the performance of Ravi Bishnoi, the 20-year-old legspinner, who performed the difficult act of keeping Pant quiet despite being the left-hander’s obvious target to go after. He did this by slanting the ball across Pant from over the wicket, and almost exclusively bowling sliders and wrong’uns that veered away from his hitting arc. He exhibited impressive control over his lengths as well, and only conceded 13 runs to Pant off 12 balls, ending their skirmish by bowling him off the inside edge.

Iyer had a better time against his designated target, hitting the offspinner K Gowtham for three towering sixes. Ever since his India return late last year, Iyer has shown he’s become a ruthless hitter against spin, and this ability should come in handy for the Capitals right through this season.

Stoinis goes berserk

Just when Iyer was looking dangerous, Shami returned to the attack in the 15th over and dismissed him with a well-disguised knuckle ball. There were no boundaries in that over, or the next one from Bishnoi, or the one after that from Sheldon Cottrell. After 17 overs, the Capitals were 100 for 6 and looking at a total in the region of 130.

They ended up with 158, thanks to one of the most remarkable slog-overs efforts the IPL has ever seen. The bowling wasn’t great – Chris Jordan and Cottrell didn’t vary their pace all that much, and kept missing their length while going for yorkers, both wide and straight – but Stoinis’ hitting was magnificent. He took guard on off stump to get closer to the line if the bowlers went wide, and that also allowed him to put away straighter deliveries behind square on the leg side. From there, it was all still head and stable base, and the last three overs brought the Capitals 13, 14, and an eye-watering 30 runs respectively.

Stoinis ransacked 49 runs in the last three overs of the Capitals’ innings. Only Virat Kohli and Andre Russell have scored more in that part of an IPL innings.

Ashwin’s two-way impact

Just as in the first innings, the new ball did a bit in the second too. Kings XI expected this, and also had a not-particularly-steep target to chase, so their top order played out this phase with a little more caution than Shaw and Hetmyer in particular had done for the Capitals. Rahul muscled a Mohit Sharma free-hit for a monstrous leg-side six but was otherwise circumspect until he was bowled by an inducker from Sharma in the fifth over. Agarwal was even more circumspect: he was on 4 off 10 at the end of the fifth over.

Ashwin came on for the sixth over, and took a wicket with his first ever ball for the Capitals, against the team he captained last season; Karun Nair was the victim, falling to a top-edged sweep. Four balls later, Ashwin burst through Pooran’s defences with an arm ball from round the wicket. Kings XI were 34 for 3, and were looking at negotiating 19 more balls from Ashwin, but in an attempt to dive and save a single down the ground, he dislocated his left shoulder and left the field in what appeared to be intense pain.

Glenn Maxwell fell in the next over, miscuing Rabada to mid-off, but Kings XI had a bit of a lifeline. With Ashwin unable to bowl any further, targets could be found among their other five bowlers.

Agarwal comes agonisingly close

When Kings XI lost Sarfaraz Khan at the end of the 10th over, they needed 103 from their last 60 balls with only five wickets in hand. Agarwal at that point was batting on 13 off 20.

The boundaries began to arrive for him, but still in small, measured doses: a pulled six off Stoinis in the 11th over, two fast-hands slashes square on the off side off Anrich Nortje in the 13th. Amidst all this, the left-arm spinner Axar Patel kept him and Gowtham quiet, finding a bit of in-drift and getting the ball to skid towards the stumps.

With 74 needed off 36, Gowtham went after Sharma, picking his slower delivery and launching it over the long-on boundary before flat-batting a short one over mid-off for four. He fell in the next over, off Rabada, but Agarwal kept Kings XI in touch with the required rate with two more fours off Nortje in the 17th.

If Ashwin had been able to bowl, Sharma may not have had to finish his quota. As it happened, Sharma bowled the 18th and conceded two sixes to Agarwal, who was by now picking his spot and finding it ruthlessly, even if it meant carving full balls over point. Then, in the 19th over, Agarwal got the bit of luck that his innings deserved, Iyer putting down a chance running to his left from deep midwicket and giving away another four.

Twelve came off that Rabada over – it could have been 13 but for a tight but erroneous call of short run when Jordan turned for a second run – leaving the Capitals’ sixth bowler, Stoinis, to defend 12 off the last over. Agarwal smacked the first ball for six, high over long-off, and seemed to have the match all sewn up two balls later with a drive that beat long-off to his left.

That left one to get off three balls. A dot ball followed as Agarwal slashed at and missed a bouncer outside off. Stoinis brought all but one of his fielders into the 30-yard circle, and bowled a wide full-toss. Did he mean to? Who knows, but Agarwal picked out deep point, the only fielder on the boundary.

Then, with one to get off the last ball, Jordan flicked powerfully, but just within range of Rabada, who moved a step to his right at square leg to pull off a terrific reflex catch. There was no logical reason for the Capitals to still be alive in this match, but logic was taking a day off.



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England women v West Indies 2020

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West Indies women’s interim head coach Andre Coley has called upon his team’s batters to step up and take responsibility in their T20I series against England.

In the T20 World Cup earlier this year, West Indies did well with the ball, with their medium-pacers and spinners proving difficult to hit. But with the bat, Stafanie Taylor was the leading run-scorer despite an underwhelming aggregate of 84 in three innings, and only one player, Shemaine Campbelle, maintained a strike rate above 100 (min. 10 balls faced).

In particular, Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin will be expected to contribute more in this series, after returns of 26 and 12 runs respectively in that tournament. On West Indies’ tour to England last summer, no player made a half-century across three ODIs and a T20I – although Matthews made 107* in the T20I series against Ireland, with Taylor and Chedean Nation both hitting fifties.

“White-ball cricket, and T20 cricket specifically, is about scoring runs,” Coley said on the eve of the first T20I. “If you watch the history of our cricket, our bowling department has always held its own, done well and been competitive.

“[But] we’ll need to post challenging totals and be able to chase them as well. We need to be clear in our roles for each player, and how we want to go about the batting, and we should be OK.”

ALSO READ: Both teams to take a knee throughout T20I series

Coley said that he took particular encouragement from the fact that no team was bowled out across the two intra-squad warm-up matches, with standout performances from captain Taylor (71 off 52 balls) and Lee-Ann Kirby (85 off 63 balls) in the first and second games respectively.

“It’s very good that in all innings that were played, we batted the full complement of overs,” Coley said, “and there were individual performances as well as partnerships throughout. It was good for everyone to have had some time out in the middle in a competitive environment, which we haven’t had for a while.

“We’re very confident, and buoyed by that. From a bowling standpoint, we’re happy that we’ve been hitting our marks. We’ve all very capable physically too, and have gone through our fielding exercises and we’re very comfortable [with that].”

Monday’s T20I will be the first between two full-member women’s teams since the T20 World Cup final in March – although Germany and Austria played a series in mid-August – and Coley said that it reflected well on West Indies that they will have been involved in the first major internationals since Covid-19 struck.

“I’m very happy from our standpoint, in terms of West Indies cricket,” he said. “We were able to do it with the men, to restart international men’s cricket, and again we are here restarting women’s cricket. That says a lot for the passion in the West Indies, our commitment to the game and so on, in a world where everyone is trying to cope.

“We’re looking forward to that opportunity to be out on the park. The ECB has done well in terms of putting things together in such a way that we have been protected here and have gone through our preparations well. We’re looking forward to help restart women’s cricket internationally – it only augurs well for the game.”



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Sunrisers Hyderabad v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2020, Fantasy Pick, team predictions

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Sunrisers Hyderabad v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Dubai

Pro tip

Sunrisers have a brittle middle order, so it’s better to have more top-order batsmen and bowlers from their team.

Our XI: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal, Manish Pandey, Mohammad Nabi, Chris Morris, Rashid Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Khaleel Ahmed

Substitutes: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dale Steyn, Washington Sundar, Moeen Ali

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates, so please finalise your team after the toss.

Captain: David Warner

Warner is a no-brainer pick given his IPL record. Though he had a tough time in England, he did look in good touch in the final ODI. At the IPL, very few have been as consistent as Warner. Last season, he played just 12 games but still won the orange cap, scoring 692 runs at a strike rate of 143.87, including a 100 not out against RCB.

Vice-captain: Mohammad Nabi

There is no reason to look past someone who bowls four overs every game and also bats in the top six. This, especially if he hs someone as special as Nabi, who is coming off a great CPL, where he scored 156 runs at a strike rate of 124.80 and also picked up 12 wickets at an average of 17. Nabi’s economy rate of 5.10 was also the best in the tournament among all bowlers with ten or more wickets.

Hot Picks

Virat Kohli: The RCB skipper is a must-have. Kohli must be ready to announce himself in this IPL with a big score. The fans will be hoping this turns out to be the season where he can repeat his 2016 heroics.

Rashid Khan: Even though Khan had an ordinary CPL, he is expected to deliver for the Sunrisers on the slow pitches in the UAE. You can never discount a quality legspinner in any form of cricket, let alone in T20s. Since 2018, Khan has the highest dot-ball percentage of 44.57% in the IPL, and his 25 wickets are the second most in the middle overs in the IPL.

Manish Pandey: In all probability, Pandey will bat No. 3 for the Sunrisers. Last season, he played six innings at that position, and scored 205 runs at an average of 72.50 and a strike rate of 141.46. However, his numbers while batting below No. 3 were significantly lower.

Differential Players

Devdutt Padikkal: The 20-year-old Padikkal was the highest run-getter in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well as the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy during the 2019-20 domestic season. In the T20 tournament, Padikkal scored 580 runs at a strike rate of 175.75. If he plays, he will definitely open the batting for RCB and could be the difference between winning and losing.

Khaleel Ahmed: Ahmed was the highest wicket-taker for the Sunrisers last season. He picked up 19 last year at an economy rate of 8.23 and an excellent strike rate of 11. He could give you a couple of wickets almost every game.

Points to note

  • If Padikkal doesn’t play, pick Washington Sundar.

  • Bhuvneshwar Kumar has had the edge over Aaron Finch in all T20s since 2016. Their head-to-head record reads: 31 balls, 24 runs and three dismissals.



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