As women’s cricket continues to scale unprecedented heights, especially after a showpiece tournament in the form of the Women's World Cup that concluded in April, the T20 Women’s Challenge returns for its fourth edition after a year’s hiatus. When the three-team tournament was last played in 2020, it enjoyed a breakthrough season as it logged in a record-breaking viewership of 5.34 billion minutes in India alone.
That, and the growing profile of women’s cricket around the world, lends an exciting premise to the 2022 edition as it acts as a precursor to a six-team Women’s IPL to follow in 2023, confirmed by BCCI earlier this year.
The three squads - Trailblazers, Supernovas and Velocity- will be led by India’s white-ball superstars Smriti Mandhana, the Indian opener, Harmanpreet Kaur, India’s T20I captain and Deepti Sharma, the all-rounder, respectively as veterans Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey are notable absentees. As many as 12 overseas players from Australia, South Africa, England, Bangladesh, West Indies and Thailand are set to feature. The tournament will see each side take on each other once starting Monday, May 23 with the Final to be contested between the top two teams on Saturday, May 28 with all games scheduled at the MCA Stadium in Pune.
The two-time winners and defending champions led by India’s leading run-scorer at the Women’s World Cup, Mandhana, bear the look of a settled unit which features English import Sophia Dunkley, who blasted a 73-ball 123, a knock that featured 18 boundaries and three sixes, after picking two wickets with the ball at the recently concluded FairBreak Invitational T20 competition’s 3rd place play-off a week ago in Dubai. The onus will be on Hayley Matthews, the West Indian all-rounder, who capped off an excellent World Cup being her country’s leading-run scorer as well as the leading wicket-taker (10 at an average 10.80).
Squad: Smriti Mandhana (capt), Poonam Yadav (vice-capt), Arundhati Reddy, Hayley Matthews, Jemimah Rodrigues, Priyanka Priyadarshini, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh, Richa Ghosh, S Meghana Saiqa Ishaque, Salma Khatun, Sharmin Akhter, Sophia Dunkley, Sujata Mallik, Shradda Pokharkar
33-year-old India’s T20I captain, Kaur, has a young star-studded team at her disposal. Sophia Ecclestone, England’s left-arm spinner, is ranked No. 1 in T20Is and finished the World Cup as its leading wicket-taker with 21 wickets while Alana King, the Australian leg-spinner, made waves at the World Cup picking 12 wickets notably at crucial junctures. The squad also features veteran Deandra Dottin, India regulars Pooja Vastrakar and Taniya Bhatia as Supernovas eye their second title.
Squad:Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), Taniya Bhatia (vice-capt), Alana King, Ayushi Soni, Chandu V, Deandra Dottin, Harleen Deol, Meghna Singh, Monica Patel, Muskan Malik, Pooja Vastrakar, Priya Punia, Rashi Kanojia, Sophie Ecclestone, Suné Luus, Mansi Joshi
The Deepti Sharma-led side is still searching for its first silverware and boast of a strong batting core with the likes of Laura Wolvaardt, Sneh Rana, Kate Cross, Yastika Bhatia and Shafali Verma, who is ranked No. 3 among all-rounders and batters according to ICC’s T20I metrics, among her side’s ranks. Thailand’s Natthakan Chantham impressed with her fielding skills last season playing for the Trailblazers.
Squad: Deepti Sharma (capt), Sneh Rana (vice-capt), Shafali Verma, Ayabonga Khaka, Kiran Navgire, Kate Cross, Keerthi James, Laura Wolvaardt, Maya Sonawane, Natthakan Chantham, Radha Yadav, Aarti Kedar, Shivali Shinde, Simran Bahadur, Yastika Bhatia, Pranavi Chandra
Fixtures (All hosted at the MCA Stadium, Pune)
- May 23 - Trailblazers vs Supernovas, 7:30pm IST
- May 24 - Supernovas vs Velocity, 3:30pm IST
- May 26 - Velocity vs Trailblazers, 7:30pm IST
- May 28 - Final, 7:30pm IST