The BCCI’s decision to pull the women’s national team out their England tour was “not a case of neglect”, former India captain and Apex Council member Shanta Rangaswamy said on Monday, arguing that there hadn’t been enough time to make arrangements. Rangaswamy said the situation was not in the BCCI’s control and that “even nature” – in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic – was conspiring against women’s cricket.
“It is not a case of neglect. You need at least six weeks to be match fit and with the Covid-19 affecting most part of the country, is it possible to organise a training camp right away? Then you would also have 14-day quarantine in England,” she told PTI.
India were scheduled to tour England for a bilateral limited-overs series in July-August this year. That couldn’t happen because of the pandemic, but the ECB had suggested tweaking it into a tri-series, also involving South Africa, tentatively in September. But it was cancelled after the BCCI opted to pull out.
Though the Indian board didn’t say anything officially, as reported by ESPNcricinfo, the withdrawal was primarily because of the worsening Covid-19 situation in India. The ECB, however, is understood to have been prepared to cover costs for India’s accommodation and travel, including a charter flight if required, as the English board has done for the West Indies and Pakistan men’s teams currently touring the UK.
“There was just not enough time to make it happen. Covid-19 has hurt world cricket, more so women’s cricket,” Rangaswamy said. “We have gone back a couple of years after a record attendance for the T20 World Cup final at MCG in March. It is sad and an anti-climax.”
It is unclear if concerns over players getting adequate pre-tour training played a part in the cancellation. The BCCI is expected to organise a biosecure training camp in Ahmedabad for the men’s team ahead of their tour of Australia in December, according to an Indian Express report. With a women’s ODI World Cup scheduled in New Zealand in February-March, questions arise around whether the board has let go a chance for its women – especially ODI stalwarts Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, who haven’t played international cricket since early November last year – to get some much-needed game time under their belts.
“People doubting BCCI’s intentions will have to wait for things to be normal before passing their judgement. The situation was not in their control on this occasion. The late announcement on the men’s T20 World Cup postponement has also given the BCCI little time to prepare for the IPL”
Then there is the Women’s T20 Challenge, usually played alongside the IPL. The rescheduled IPL this year is clashing with the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, where at least three Indian players are expected to participate.
“It looks like even nature is conspiring against women’s cricket,” Rangaswamy said. “Last year, a third team was added to the IPL Women’s Challenge, this year it was supposed to be four. Now the shift of venue. More importantly, it is clashing with the Women’s Big Bash, which was already scheduled. Let’s see what the IPL Governing Council decides.
“Going to England was more important than the IPL exhibition games. England tour would have been ideal preparation for the World Cup.”
With no selectors in place and no tours lined-up, women’s cricket in India is facing uncertainty after the gains over the last three years, which included runners-up finishes at the 50-over World Cup in 2017 and then at the T20 World Cup earlier this year. Rangaswamy, however, wanted to give the BCCI the benefit of the doubt on the matter.
“The post-Covid-19 scenario will be a testimony to their [BCCI’s] commitment on women’s cricket,” she said. “People doubting BCCI’s intentions will have to wait for things to be normal before passing their judgement. The situation was not in their control on this occasion. The late announcement on the men’s T20 World Cup postponement has also given the BCCI little time to prepare for the IPL.”