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Women’s red-ball cricket to return to India’s domestic calendar

Red-ball cricket for women will make a return to India’s domestic calendar after four years when the BCCI conducts its Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Multi-Day Trophy in Pune from March 28. It was in 2018 that a domestic red-ball tournament – of two-day matches – was last held in India for women.

This comes not long after India played – and won – back-to-back one-off Tests against England and Australia in December 2023. India had also played Tests on their tours of England and Australia in 2021, but you have to go back all the way to 2014 for the previous instance of India playing a women’s Test, and a women’s Test being held in India, when South Africa had toured.

The matches will be hosted by the Maharashtra Cricket Association, with the East Zone vs North East Zone and West Zone vs Central Zone fixtures kicking off the action. North Zone and South Zone have been placed in the semi-finals straightaway and will meet the winners of the first two games from April 3. The final will be played from April 9. All the matches will be three-day affairs.

The tournament will begin just over ten days after the final of the ongoing second edition of the WPL slated for March 17 in Delhi.

There has been a clamour in recent times for more women’s Tests to be organised, with only the occasional Test match – featuring Australia, England, India and South Africa – played currently. For India, this means playing a format of the game they have little experience of.

Before the Test against England last December, Smriti Mandhana, speaking at a press conference, had said, “[Our] bodies are not used to playing four back-to-back days of cricket because we generally play T20s and ODIs which have gaps. More than physical part, being there [on the field] for four days mentally, trying to focus on each ball [is important].”

At the time, she had expressed hope that the BCCI would consider restarting the women’s domestic red-ball competition, saying, “As the number of Tests increase, we may see a new domestic tournament for long-form cricket. Domestic structure is always according to international demands.”

More recently, Meg Lanning had taken a somewhat stronger stance on the matter. “It’s really difficult to prepare for a Test match. In my career, we were playing once every two years. It takes us two days to work out how to play it again, and then the Test is over,” she had said. “If you really want the games to be a good contest and more nations to play and players to understand the game a little bit more, I think we probably need to play more. Or you go the other way and you don’t play any at all and you focus on the short-format stuff.”

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