No players from Australia are in the three squads that will take part in the four-match Women’s T20 Challenge 2019, which will be held in Jaipur from May 6 to 11 on the sidelines of the IPL playoffs.
The world leaders in the women’s game, Australia had fielded the largest overseas contingent in last year’s one-off exhibition match, including stars such as Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Megan Schutt, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney.
Only last month, Cricket Australia’s female high-performance manager Shawn Flegler had told cricket.com.au that the board would support Australians participating in any exhibition matches played this year. “It’s a great opportunity for the players, and to see a women’s IPL get off the ground would be a great thing for the game more broadly,” Flegler had said.
But now, Australian women cricketers have been stopped by Cricket Australia (CA) from participating in the Women’s T20 Challenge next month owing to a men’s bilateral series dispute with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which says its counterpart Down Under is indulging in “blackmail”.
An email from CA’s top official Belinda Clark (former Australia skipper) in possession of PTI indicates that stopping the three is a “pressure tactic” to ensure postponement of men’s ODI series.
As per the new Future Tours Program, Australia were supposed to play three ODIs in January 2020, which is during the peak Australian summer, owing to pressure from broadcasters.
“We will be in a position to consider the request when the current issue regarding the men’s ODI series that was agreed in the FTP for late January 2020 is resolved by Rahul (BCCI CEO Rahul Johri) and Kevin (CA CEO Kevin Roberts). I understand that this is being worked through at present,” Clarke wrote in an e-mail to the IPL operations team.
The BCCI has lambasted CA for putting conditions on the release of women players.
“If you look at the contents of Belinda’s email, it is clear that they are resorting to blackmailing tactics. How is releasing women players related to men’s series. It was agreed as per FTP and they want to backtrack now,” a senior official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
The BCCI’s IPL operations team had written to the CA for the release of the three players on April 4 and Clark mailed on April 5.
“Since April 5, there hasn’t been a single communication from CA and we had no option but to name the teams. Using women players to sort out men’s cricket issue is in bad taste,” the official added.