'Playing red-ball games will produce more wicket-taking bowlers', says Mamatha Maben on format’s return to women's domestic cricket

March 3, 2024
The commencement of the Senior Women's Inter-Zonal Multi-Day Trophy in Pune from March 28 will signal the revival of red-ball cricket for female cricketers

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) The commencement of the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Multi-Day Trophy in Pune from March 28 will signal the revival of red-ball cricket for female cricketers in the Indian domestic circuit, following a six-year absence.

Women cricketers in India last played red-ball cricket in the domestic circuit during the 2017-18 season, with matches lasting three days. The tournament is now coming back after India’s back-to-back victories in one-off Tests against England and Australia in December 2023.

Taking the bigger picture into consideration, Mamatha Maben, the former India captain, believes that bringing back red-ball matches for women’s cricket will prove to be advantageous. “In the long run, it being a foundational format, should prove to be the best thing to have ever happened. Now that women’s cricket is growing, unless they don’t have that foundation, they will not be able to go high.”

“You can’t teach wicket-taking skills if they are going to play a format, which is restrictive. For learning the art of purchasing wickets, you need this format for the bowlers, and for the batters as well, it’s required to learn about temperament. It’s much easier to play T20 cricket than to feature in quality Test match cricket, which becomes mentally more taxing than anything.”

“In T20s, a player doesn’t get exposed much, but in longer format, if one isn’t thorough, then she’s gone. Even in Friday’s match (at the WPL), when UP Warriorz lost wickets in between, Grace Harris had to cool down for sometime and that’s where the temperament comes in. This is exactly why I feel the return of longer format in Indian women’s domestic cricket is a blessing,” said Mamatha in a conversation with IANS.

The Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Multi-Day Trophy will begin eleven days after the ongoing WPL ends on March 17 in New Delhi. Mamatha, who captained India in 19 ODIs from 2003 to 2004, explained how playing domestic red-ball cricket matches can produce more wicket-taking bowlers for the national side.

“When the BCCI first took over, it used to be played at state level and I played in it for first three years in the form of two-day games. In the first year, I found it difficult to operate the bowlers – they never knew how to keep the field and had the ODI mindset.

“I had to convince them to bowl closer to the wickets and keep close-in catching fielders. I said to them, ‘runs going is not a matter, wickets need to be purchased for winning’. That’s the difference there – you can post 1000 runs on board, but if one can’t take 20 wickets, you can’t win a game.

“Then the bowlers will learn the art of bowling wicket-taking balls, where you would go for runs, but will snap wickets. Through the red-ball games, we will produce more wicket-taking bowlers. I can’t blame them as they know how to bowl restrictively as few know about the art of taking wickets,” she said.

The tournament will start with East Zone taking on North East Zone and West Zone facing off against Central Zone. North Zone and South Zone will meet the winners of those two matches in the semi-finals on April 3. The winners of the semi-finals will play in the final starting from April 9.

“The current generation isn’t exposed to that; they are very restrictive, especially the bowlers. Playing the longer format will benefit both bowlers and batters. Once your base is set, then you can add layers to your game and can pull it off anytime. I always tell that nobody goes to a battle only with a sword; they need a shield, because you may not use the shield.

“But one strong opponent is going to throw at you and if you don’t have the shield, you will not be alive to yield your sword. Even in T20s, there are going to be few balls which are going to be so good and if you don’t have a fundamentally honed tight defence to put the ball in gaps and take a single, you will get exposed.

“That is where the miniscule foundational skills from the longer format will help and I am very happy about this. Girls need to know how’s it to bat for two days or what kind of strength it takes to field for four sessions,” elaborated Mamatha, who played four women’s Tests for India.

Mamatha wants women players at the base and state levels to gain exposure to red-ball cricket, while highlighting the significant benefits of transfer in skills from one format to another.

“The longer format matches will help in development of mental and technical aspects which will eventually get into their system and they can use that into different formats, like take good things from red-ball cricket into T20s. Plus, it’s a one more format for girls, though I wish it was at state level as they play few games at the base and more at the top level.

“We need to look after the base and state players, as they also need a fair number of games, which is not the case in men’s cricket as tournaments are happening for them. With women’s cricket growing, all of this should be moving up organically. Ideally, it should have been at the state level, but anyhow something is better than nothing. We should be welcoming it and yes, it should have never been disbanded at the first place,” she concluded.



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