Friday, 6 December 2013

Ring out the old, ring in the new : Women's Domestic Season Preview

Tamil Nadu will miss the services of Niranjana, who will turn out for Indian railways this season.
Change is the flavour of the year it seems, with the BCCI introducing sweeping changes in the women's domestic format. Their decision to conduct all matches with white ball and in coloured kit has drawn wide cheers, and is a step in the right direction, since India do not play tests at the international level. While there is a lot of excitement around this move ('Which colour is your team wearing?'; 'Did they spell my name right on my shirt?'; 'I wanted jersey number eight!') some serious questions are still unanswered. Like why the BCCI has still not adopted the most recent international playing conditions in women's domestic matches? (Still only one new ball, still 5 fielders allowed outside the ring in the middle overs.) Likewise, the new domestic structure has left many disappointed, with the overall number of matches being reduced. It remains to be seen as to whether this new design reaps different results, so judgement shall be reserved (audible sigh of relief from the board :-P).

So this year the regional zone wise matches have been scrapped, with all teams in the national mix, at different levels. The top 10 teams will comprise the Elite division, which is split into pools A and B, and the bottom 15 will make up the Plate division, with three pools A,B,and C. Each division will have separate semi-finals and finals,based on league stage performances. One-dayers will be played in December, followed by the T20s in January. Add only the inter zonal tournament and the Challenger trophy, and we get a much shorter domestic season. The show will wrap up by the end of January, leaving the Women in Blue enough time to prepare for the T20 World Cup in March. Unconfirmed rumours that the T20 leg of the season will be postponed point to the possibility of an international series before the World Cup ( if there were just whispers before, there will be rumours now B-)).

Change is also the buzzword as far as team composition goes. Defending champs Indian Railways have called up new players and will field a young but strong squad, including N. Niranjana and wicketkeeper Anagha Deshpande. The trend of players switching states has grown even stronger this year. Veteran Amita Sharma will be turning out for Assam,and Rajasthan have roped in Jaya Sharma and Rumeli Dhar, both coming back from injury. Maharashtra too have a new look squad and opener Smriti Mandhana will be the cynosure after scoring an unprecedented 1,057 runs in 14 matches of U19 cricket, with four centuries and one double hundred. She also lead Maharashtra U19 to the finals, sharing the honours with Assam, that match ending in a thrilling tie. Maharashtra will be hoping she can repeat her almost Herculean success at the senior level too. Last year's one day runner-up Uttar Pradesh and T20 runner-up Hyderabad will also look to mount strong challenges in the Elite division.

The battle in the Plate division will be keenly fought, with many teams getting their first taste of national exposure. With no clear favorites, all the teams have everything to play for.

White ball cricket tends to throw up more than a few surprises, so this season will be one to watch out for. Besides the players, this new structure is also being tested. It's not all good news, but some of it isn't bad at all.

Let's play (white) ball.

Stats courtesy Sudhir Aly @ Cricket Archive