The Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) kicked off in style last week, but without Indian players. Skipper of the Indian team Harmanpreet Kaur was busy leading India to the Women's Asia Cup title in Bangladesh.
It was their seventh Asia Cup title and the Harmanpreet-led team lost only one game on their way to clinching the Asian crown.
Now, Harmanpreet is set to represent the Melbourne Renegades in the WBBL season eight. Apart from her, two other members of the Indian international team, Jemimah Rodrigues and Pooja Vastrakar, will participate in the T20 league, for the Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat, respectively.
Due to the Asia Cup, the trio missed the first few games of the season. Nonetheless, there's a long way to go, as it's an 8-team tournament and features 59 games every year.
During the last edition of the tournament, eight Indian players played for different franchises. The list included Harmanpreet, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Radha Yadav, Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh, and Poonam Yadav. Vastrakar is the newest name on this elite list.
The number this year could have been four, but Mandhana pulled out of the tournament due to heavy workload.
The WBBL has produced some of the most exciting talents for Australia and provides valuable experience for the participants. Notably, Harmanpreet Kaur, after a good performance in the 2017 Women's ODI World Cup, had credited her stint in the Australian league for improving her limited-overs play.
The WBBL first took place in 2015, when it was a pioneering enterprise for women's cricket. It has also been the world's grandest women's cricket league and has made other cricket boards follow its lead.
The Hundred (Women's) in England, Women's Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Women's Pakistan Super League (PSL), FairBreak Invitational, and now, the Women's Indian Premier League (IPL) are inspired by the WBBL's success.
As the Indian trio of Harmanpreet, Jemimah, and Vastrakar get ready to join the league, let's take a look at their schedule in Australia.
Harmanpreet Kaur was the first Indian to participate in the WBBL and win the 'Player of the Tournament' award too. She attained this famous breakthrough last year (2021) while representing the Renegades.
She notched up 406 runs in 12 innings at a strike rate of 130.96 at an average of 58. She scored three fifties during her stint in 2021.
Furthermore, Renegades skipper Sophie Molineux went on to reinvent Harmanpreet's forgotten role of an all-rounder. The India captain picked up 15 wickets in 13 innings with her off-spin, at an economy of 7.45 that season. Moreover, she ended up as one of the top 10 wicket-takers and run-scorers of the tournament.
The success of the player from Punjab carried on during her time with her national team too. After a very profitable 2022 so far in Indian team colors, the 33-year-old won't shy away from another vigilant season in the 'reds'.
Already the Yorkshire's favorite female cricketer, Rodrigues is set to return to Melbourne, but this time in the 'greens'. She played for the Renegades last year in the WBBL, and this year will be her first season for the Melbourne Stars.
Rodrigues played 13 innings in the WBBL 2021 edition and scored 333 runs at a strike rate of 116.43 and an average of 27.75. She aided Harmanpreet in the Renegades' middle order and also scored a couple of fifties.
More importantly, the young batter had been dropped from the Indian squad for the Women's Cricket World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year. But she returned to the T20I squad in June 2022.
The right-handed batswoman played the Hundred but was out due to an injury, earlier than expected. The 22-year-old was part of the silver medal-winning Indian team in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Since June 2022, Rodrigues has scored four fifties in 16 of her innings in cricket's shortest format at any level. She was the highest run-scorer in the recently concluded Women's Asia Cup 2022. In six innings of that tournament, she scored 217 runs, at an average of 54.25 and a strike rate of 135.62, with a couple of fifties.
Considering her league-cricket career so far, Rodrigues is a reliable and reasonable signing for her franchise. The talented batter will soon be in action against the struggling Stars.
Undoubtedly, the most exciting signing for the Brisbane Heat this year, Pooja Vastrakar will take the field in the WBBL with a lot of expectations, especially as a bowler.
Vastrakar is a pace-bowling all-rounder and is a regular member of the Indian women's cricket team.
Heat signed the 23-year-old after noticing her improvements during the last year. Vastrakar started the year well in both departments, batting and bowling. She has picked up a decent amount of wickets and has played vital batting cameos.
The right-arm pacer is a reliable all-rounder and has played a lot of international cricket.
However, her upcoming stint with the Heat will be her first-ever experience playing in an overseas league. Being a pacer and playing in a pace-friendly region like Australia is the highlight of Vastrakar's forthcoming calendar.
Vastrakar is yet to emerge as a consistent wicket-taking pacer but bowling in the WBBL is a good opportunity for her to improve her performances.
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