The Women’s T20 Challenge (WT20C), BCCI’s annual women’s exhibition T20 tournament is set for its fourth chapter this month. The three-team affair will take place alongside the playoffs of the Indian Premier League, between May 24-28 in Pune.
The tournament has, in the past, attracted the biggest names in the women’s game and while team sheets aren’t confirmed for the forthcoming edition yet, it promises to be no different.
Additionally, a number of players from the recently concluded Senior Women’s T20 Trophy – India’s premier domestic tournament in the format – will hope to find places in the three teams – Trailblazers, Supernovas, and Velocity. It needs to be noted that any analysis of the tournament is purely based on available scorecards as there was no telecast or live stream made available.
Here are a few players who have made a case to feature in the upcoming edition of the WT20C:
KIRAN NAVGIRE: The 26-year-old batter amassed 525 runs for Nagaland and topped the run-scoring charts. In her first game in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy against Arunachal Pradesh, she hammered a 76-ball 162 – making her the first Indian, male or female, to score more than 150 runs in a T20 fixture. In the six other innings, she registered four 50-plus scores with an overall average strike rate of more than 170. Originally from Maharashtra (whose team made the final), Navgire moved to Nagaland after not getting too many opportunities to play in her state’s team. Her consistent performances took Nagaland to the knockouts but the side failed to make the quarterfinals. An ardent MS Dhoni supporter, Navgire – whose original prowess was in javelin throwing, will make an explosive addition to the top orders of any of the three participating teams.
S MEGHANA: The Railways batter made her India debut in 2016 but found herself out of the side for five years. Meghana continued doing what she does best, letting her bat speak, in the domestic circuit with over 3,400 runs in First-Class, List-A, T20, and age-group cricket fixtures for the many teams she represented (Andhra/ Railways, Central and South Zone, and India A). She made a comeback in India’s tour of New Zealand before the Women’s World Cup, registering scores of 4(14), 49(50) and 61(41) in the three ODI games and 37(30) in the T20I she featured in. In the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, Meghana’s scores showed early fluency but her standout performances came when it mattered the most to the now 10-time champion, with an 84-run innings in the semifinal against Odisha and a brisk 52 in the final against Maharashtra. Her exclusion from the World Cup side baffled many and given her form, she might prove to be a handy batting option in the Women’s T20 Challenge.
D HEMALATHA: Dayalan Hemalatha has been in and out of the Indian national team since 2018. She was last seen in an ODI when South Africa toured India in 2020 and in a T20I before that in 2019 when India toured New Zealand. The Women’s T20 Trophy was a way to try and get back in the reckoning for a place in the team again, especially with the field getting more competitive over the last two years. She has made a case for herself, stepping up when her Railways side needed and finishing as the fourth highest runscorer (272 runs in eight games) in the tournament. She was part of the victorious Trailblazers side which won the last edition in 2020 and will hope to feature again this time.
Maya Sonawane [3nd from left, bottom row] and Aarati Kedar [4th from left, bottom row] – Special Arrangement
AARTI S KEDAR: Maharashtra’s Aarti S Kedar ended as the top wicket-taker with 13 wickets from eight games. The left-arm spinner took at least one wicket in seven out of the eight games she played – the wicketless game being the final against the Railways. She nearly registered a hattrick to her name in the fixture against Rajasthan. Kedar has maintained a healthy economy rate, coming in handy for skipper Smriti Mandhana in stemming the run flow. She was ably supported by teammate and fellow spinner Maya Sonawane who finished with 11 wickets in the tournament. Sonawane took two consecutive four-wicket hauls early on for her side and is another talent to watch out for.
YASTIKA BHATIA: The Baroda batter has had an impressive year with the Indian team in ODIs and channeled some of that form into her performances in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy as well. She finished second to Navgire in the runs tally with 325 runs from seven games including four half-centuries. She also had a great tournament behind the stumps, with four catches and 12 stumpings to her name. Her placement and ability to rotate the strike will make her a vital cog in the middle order for teams in the WT20C.
Notable mention: SHAFALI VERMA: Ever since she burst onto the scene in 2019, Verma is one of the most recognisable names in Indian cricket. She has featured in the Women’s T20 Challenge since then and has been a regular in the Indian national side as well. After a prolonged slump in form, Verma made the most of time in the Women’s T20 Trophy with Haryana, finishing with 303 runs in seven innings. She even took on captaincy duties for her side, leading her side to knockouts. While the side fell to Odisha, Verma as a potential captaincy option is an exciting prospect for the Women’s T20 Challenge, given Velocity – the team she has represented – is led by Mithali Raj who does not play the format anymore.