India’s T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur, vice-captain Smriti Mandhana and 19-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, who has been on the radar of at least two teams, are unlikely to feature in the first standalone Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) – set to start much earlier than usual – from October 18 to December 8.
The tournament is likely to clash with India’s month-long tour of the Caribbean, leaving the players with a very limited window towards the end of what will be the fifth season of the WBBL. ESPNcricinfo understands that the Indian team, currently playing a T20I series at home against South Africa, is tentatively slated to depart for the Caribbean on October 23. India will also play three ODIs against South Africa, with the last match on October 14.
Scheduling aside, it is understood that the players were keen to be fresh for India’s tour of Australia next year which will feature a tri-series involving England – from January 31 to February 12 – ahead of the Women’s T20 World Cup to be held there in February-March. India will take on hosts and defending champions Australia in the tournament opener on February 21.
The scheduling meant Sydney Thunder did not offer a contract extension to Harmanpreet, a key player in their line-up since 2016-17. Harmanpreet, however, was approached by the Melbourne Stars. Mandhana, who was contracted with the Hobart Hurricanes, was set to continue for a second consecutive edition. She had earlier been part of the Brisbane Heat in 2016-17.
Rodrigues’ wait for a WBBL contract is set to continue. She enjoyed a breakthrough KSL season for Yorkshire Diamonds, finishing the season as the second-highest run-scorer. Her fearless approach in limited-overs formats has impressed many – including Australia captain Meg Lanning – since her international debut in February last year.
Rodrigues’ high-scoring exploits on foreign soil – in South Africa (February 2018), New Zealand (earlier this year) and in the KSL, coupled with her chart-topping tally at the Women’s T20 Challenge at home in May, made her a sought-after player among two WBBL franchises.
“The BCCI doesn’t discourage any of our women’s players from taking part in overseas leagues as long as their participation [in those tournaments] doesn’t clash with their national duties,” BCCI’s general manager (cricket operations) Saba Karim told ESPNcricinfo. “In this case, there’s an international series to be played, so that will automatically be on top of their list of priorities.”
The standalone WBBL marks a departure from its preceding four seasons. With the exception of the women’s final last season which was accorded a standalone slot, on Australia Day, the women’s competition had traditionally run parallel to the men’s tournament.