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Mandhana has had an exceptional 2018 so far

‘T20 Challenge a stepping stone to women’s IPL’ – Smriti Mandhana

India Women news

Two teams led by Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, including 10 foreign players, will play an exhibition match before the IPL Qualifier 1.

The Women’s T20 Challenge would be a “stepping stone” for a women’s Indian Premier League, India’s Smriti Mandhana has said.

Mandhana, the India Women T20 vice-captain, along with Harmanpreet Kaur, the T20 captain, will be leading two sides, the Trailblazers and the Supernovas, in an exhibition match on Tuesday 22 May at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai ahead of the Qualifier 1 of IPL 2018.

The match is set to feature, for the first time, players from Australia, New Zealand and England alongside local names, playing together on Indian soil.

“It is very exciting for all of us to be playing this match,” said Mandhana. “It is a stepping stone to the IPL. And hopefully, we will put up a good show and the audience and the BCCI people will think of having a (women’s) IPL.”

"It's an incredible opportunity for all of us to showcase this game, particularly in India, which is probably the biggest country in the world for cricket," said Australia's Ellyse Perry, adding that the match would be one of the highlights of her career.

Kaur, who became the first Indian to feature in a foreign T20 league when she joined Sydney Thunder in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League, dismissed concerns that there weren’t enough players in the Indian system to build an IPL-like competition for women.

“We have 20 girls who are representing India – be it T20 or 50 overs – and apart from it there is an India A team. We do have 30-35 girls.

“Everything else depends on [the match] and how we get response from the public. And if there is good response, BCCI is very keen to form such a T20 tournament from next year.”

The WBBL, along with England’s Kia Super League, have offered local players a chance to rub shoulders with big names, improve standards and pursue cricket as a career. Suzie Bates, the New Zealand captain, hoped for similar opportunities for Indian players.

"This is going to be absolutely key if we want to see more female cricketers in India seeing it as a career and really training hard to make it to the big stage," said Bates.

“In the WBBL, you always had the Australian players that were great players and worked hard. But now, younger players are able to make it to the Big Bash teams and be the best cricketers they can be. That just lifts the standards.

“So if that can happen in India, it would be massive for the women's game.”

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