By Mandara Vishwanath
After months of speculation, Harmanpreet Kaur is officially the first Indian female cricketer to be signed on for the Women’s Big Bash League (Australia). “We are delighted to secure a player of the calibre of Harmanpreet,” said Nick Cummins, Sydney Thunder’s general manager, “She was on the top of our target list, and we are very pleased that the BCCI has released her to play in Australia.” Sydney Thunder, the team that Kaur has signed on to, confirmed this on Saturday via Twitter:
— Sydney Thunder (@ThunderBBL) July 30, 2016
In Sydney Thunder’s press release on Saturday, Kaur said, “It’s a great feeling. The WBBL is a great platform for women’s cricketers, being the first player from my country to sign a contract for a BBL club is one of my best moments. My aim is to serve my team to win the WBBL title for the second time in a row.”
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June 28, 2016
Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar will be the first Indian cricketer to play for the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. After the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) cleared the way for women cricketers to play in overseas leagues, Kaur was approached by as many as three Australian teams to sign her.
Amongst the three teams – Adelaide Strikers, Sydney Thunder, and Brisbane Heat – Kaur has chosen to sign with Sydney Thunder. Kaur says she chose Sydney Thunder as it had only one overseas player on the team (a team can have a maximum of two from overseas playing at a time), and the players stand as the defending champions of WBBL 2015-16. “We have a pretty solid team and we’re hoping our list stays consistent after a successful first year, but we have an opportunity to bring another overseas player in, and we’ll be looking to spend that spot wisely,” said Alex Blackwell, captain of Sydney Thunder. At the Women’s T20 this year, Kaur was India’s highest-scoring batter.
Although the BCCI president, Anurag Thakur, announced that Kaur has decided to go with Sydney Thunder, the team clarified on 25th June that no contract has been signed yet. She is now waiting for the BCCI to issue her a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to complete the formalities. Kaur said in an interview, “I am as excited as I was when I made my India debut, if not more. It feels the same way like you’ve been chosen to play for an international team.” The all rounder, who is 27 years old, will be playing alongside cricketers like Alex Blackwell and Stafanie Taylor (who led West Indies to victory at the World T20 in April, and is Sydney Thunder’s other overseas player).
This is a path breaking moment in women’s cricket in India, as players were given the go-ahead to play in the cricket leagues of Australia and England on June 1st, 2016. Among other players like Jhulan Goswami, Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy who were all reportedly being considered, Sydney Thunder wanted to have Kaur on the team for her outstanding batting and bowling skills.
The continued hopes from the new BCCI administration have proven to be beneficial for women’s cricket in the country, and it might progress far more than ever before. As former cricketer Snehal Pradhan points out, having women cricketers play for foreign domestic leagues is a good thing for the team back home for several reasons – higher standard of cricket, better international exposure, and a significant pay rise.
With Indian players are now allowed to play in overseas leagues, there are hopes that a Women’s T20 might not be too far off. In an interview, Kaur has said, “If sir [Anurag Thakur] has given us the permission to step out and play for other franchises, maybe the women’s IPL is also on its way.”