The best of Indian women's cricket will combine with and also go up against stars from countries like England, South Africa, and the West Indies when the third edition of the Women's T20 Challenge gets underway here on Wednesday.
The four-match tournament will have three teams -- defending champions Supernovas, last year's runners-up Velocity and Trailblazers -- competing against each other once before the summit clash on November 9. Cricketers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and New Zealand will also participate.
The Supernovas, led by Harmanpreet Kaur, have been invincible so far winning all the previous two editions. They will kickstart the tournament taking on Mithali Raj's Velocity in a repeat of last year's final eyeing a third title on the trot.
Harmanpreet was in top form in the last edition scoring two half-centuries in three matches and in the final, her blistering 37-ball 51 sealed a second win for them. India's T20 captain will look to return to her majestic form, overcoming a patchy show in the World T20 in Australia earlier this year.
She had a forgettable outing averaging a dismal 6.00 from five matches that cost India quite dearly in the tournament where they finished runners-up, after being bowled out for 99, chasing 185. There will also be Jemimah Rodrigues to watch out for.
The Mumbai cricketer was the top run-getter (123 runs at an average of 61.50) in their triumphant campaign last season. She was adjudged the 'Player of the Series'. The opposition camp features Mithali, who will be keen to lead from the front and avenge their 2019 defeat when they lost by four wickets in a last-over thriller.
Velocity will rely heavily on 16-year-old Indian sensation Shafali Verma who grabbed eyeballs by hitting most sixes (nine) in the World T20 and finished as the fifth-highest run-scorer.
All the international players will be making a return to the field after the COVID-19 break that followed the Women's WT20 in February-March. It will be interesting to see their fitness levels, coming back after enduring a lockdown.
The tournament will also feature Thailand's opening batter Natthakan Chantham, who scored her country’s first Women’s WT20 half-century. She became the first Associate cricketer to play in the tournament which is seen as a precursor to a full-fledged Women's IPL. Natthakan will represent Trailblazers captained by Indian opener Smriti Mandhana.
Trailblazers will also feature veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, English spinner Sophie Ecclestone, and West Indian star Deandra Dottin. The tournament was introduced first in 2018 by the BCCI to give a much-needed boost to women's cricket in the country.
The first edition saw a one-off match in Mumbai ahead of IPL Qualifier 1 and the Harmanpreet-led Supernovas beat Trailblazers by three wickets in a last-ball finish. All matches will be held in Sharjah at 7.30 pm (IST).
Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Jemimah Rodrigues (vc), Chamari Atapattu, Priya Punia, Anuja Patil, Radha Yadav, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shashikala Siriwardene, Poonam Yadav, Shakera Selman, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Ayushi Soni, Ayabonga Khaka and Muskan Malik.
Velocity: Mithali Raj (c), Veda Krishnamurthy (vc), Shafali Verma, Sushma Verma (wk), Ekta Bisht, Mansi Joshi, Shikha Pandey, Devika Vaidya, Sushree Dibyadarshini, Manali Dakshini, Leigh Kasperek, Danielle Wyatt, Sune Luus, Jahanara Alam and M Anagha.
Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (c), Deepti Sharma (vc), Punam Raut, Richa Ghosh, D Hemalatha, Nuzhat Parween (wk), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Harleen Deol, Jhulan Goswami, Simaran Dil Bahadur, Salma Khatun, Sophie Ecclestone, Natthakan Chantham, Deandra Dottin and Kashvee Gautam.