Pakistan has announced that it is joining the growing number of countries to have its own Women’s T20 franchise competition. Called the Women’s League, the inaugural competition will be staged in March 2023 and will feature four city-based franchise teams.
Each side will comprise of 12 local and six overseas players.
The 12 teams will play each other four times on a mini-league basis, with the top two advancing to the final itself. That is due to take place the day before the final of the Pakistan Super League. All matches will be played in Rawalpindi.
Potential clash with Indian competition
It will have escaped nobody’s notice that these dates could clash with the first edition of the Women’s Indian Premier League. When the BCCI gave preliminary information about the 2023 Indian T20 league, they gave the broadest indication yet that they are ready to launch the much-anticipated women’s competition in March, although details are still sketchy.
If the two tournaments are held in parallel, it is not likely to affect domestic players from either country. Pakistan male players are not welcome in India and presumably the same applies to their women.
Meanwhile, the BCCI may look to impose similar conditions on their own female players as their men must adhere to – they are currently banned from playing in overseas franchise competitions in order to maintain the prestige of the Indian T20 league.
However, where tensions could arise is when it comes to attracting overseas players. In the men’s game, as T20 competitions continue to proliferate, there is inevitably some overlap, and the top players, some of who become guns for hire, find themselves in much demand. And it can mean that well-backed tournaments like the new South African T20 league, have essentially outbid other tournaments like the Bangladesh Premier League and the UAE ILT20.
The strategy behind the league is to help attract more young players into the sport and help raise the skill level of current players. The overarching aim is to try and make Pakistan a stronger cricket-playing nation, regardless of format or gender.
Pakistan, who are currently competing in the Women’s Asia Cup in Sylhet, Bangladesh, are ranked sixth at present in the ICC Twenty20 rankings. They have never been beyond the group stage in a global tournament before.
By playing with and against some of the world’s best, it is hoped that it will help inculcate a winning feeling and a desire to compete at the highest level.
New league will help overcome barriers
It is also hoped that the new league will help address some of the problems that have held back the development of women’s cricket in Pakistan.
There remains a belief in certain sectors of society there, especially among fundamentalist Muslims, that women should not be involved in sports of any kind. Famously, a talented young female cricketer, Bisma Amjad, had to cut her hair and pretend to be a boy, so she could practice the sport in the streets.
Female cricketers are also considerably underpaid compared to their male counterparts. And, although compensation has improved in recent years, it is nothing like their female equivalents in the “Big Three” – India, Australia, and England – earn.
And, hitherto, women’s cricket has had very little exposure in the media, and international matches are not broadcast. However, with all the matches in the new league set to be broadcast live, this is about to change at least. That, in itself, will attract more viewers, money and sponsors into the game.
It will also give young Pakistani girls role models that they may want to follow, like the current Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof.
One issue that has affected all Pakistani cricket over the past 14 years has been security. The 2008 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan touring team made Pakistan an international pariah for more than a decade. Nobody was prepared to visit, and the male team were forced to play their home matches in the Middle East.
That has gradually eased, with England the latest team to tour. Now that Pakistan is perceived as a relatively safe country once more, an increasing number of cricketers will want to visit and play there, especially if they are suitably rewarded.
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