‘How do I become a cricketer? How can I be the next Mithali Raj and play for the Indian women’s cricket team? How do I fulfil my dream of playing cricket for India Women?’
If you are a girl who loves cricket and dreams of playing for India, these are questions you may have. Don’t let your passion for cricket end with gully cricket simply because there is lack of information. Let us break down the process for you. Here are the steps a girl must take to get into the Indian women’s cricket team.
The first step is to love sport, and play sport. Any sport! You don’t have to be a cricket prodigy when you are 6 years old. You can try a few sports, and improve your general fitness, motor skills, mental toughness and learn to be a team player. Many top cricketers have benefitted from skills they have picked up from other sports. According to coaches, this will also help avoid early burnout!
Once you decide to give more time and effort to cricket, get into more structured coaching.
- Your school may have cricket coaching classes for girls.
- Local clubs, academies and cricket associations will hold summer camps.
- You can get full time into an academy, either a private one or one linked to the state association. Not every state has a girls-only academy, so you may be practising with boys. These coaching classes will start with the basic skills and cover fitness as well, and you will get to play some matches.
Once you get good at the grassroots level, you can try to get into the state level.
In Indian cricket, when we say ‘state level’ or someone tells you they want to ‘play for the state’, it doesn’t correspond to geographical states exactly. Most states (and some Union Territories) as we see on the India map have one team, but some states have multiple cricket teams. So, in Indian cricket lingo, the Mumbai team is still considered one of the ‘state teams’, even though of course Mumbai is not a ‘state’ as per geography.
To add to the confusion, there is one more domestic team that is not a state or place at all, but a government company: Railways 🚂 For now, we will keep that aside. In these pages, you can find details of all the other state teams and the step-by-step process in each place to get into that state team.
ANDHRA PRADESH | ARUNACHAL PRADESH | ASSAM | BARODA | BENGAL | BIHAR | CHANDIGARH | CHHATTISGARH | DELHI | GOA | GUJARAT | HARYANA | HIMACHAL | JAMMU & KASHMIR | JHARKHAND | KARNATAKA | KERALA | MADHYA PRADESH | MAHARASHTRA | MANIPUR | MEGHALAYA | MIZORAM | MUMBAI | NAGALAND | ODISHA | PONDICHERRY | PUNJAB | RAJASTHAN | SAURASHTRA | SIKKIM | TAMIL NADU | TELANGANA | TRIPURA | UTTAR PRADESH | UTTARAKHAND | VIDARBHA
At the state level, teams are being formed in the following age groups:
There is nothing to say that if you play in one of these age groups, you can’t play in a higher age group. For example, Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues were all playing senior-level cricket even when they were younger than 16, that’s how good they were. But for most people, selectors will see how you perform in one age group before considering you for the higher ones.
Once you get into the state team, you can play all-India BCCI tournaments.
But before that, let’s quickly talk about ‘zones’. A few states together make up a zone. They are divided geographically into South Zone, East Zone, North Zone, Central Zone and West Zone.
A few years ago, there used to be inter-zonal matches. The best players from all the states of that zone used to make a zonal team. But now, the zonal system is mainly for the Under-16 level. States within each zone come together to hold an U16 tournament among themselves.
At this level, all tournaments are run by the BCCI. This is what people are probably referring to when they talk about domestic cricket. These include tournaments played between the states, as well as some bridge tournaments where the best of the best domestic cricketers play. And they take place for three age-groups.
The U19 tournaments held by the BCCI are:
- U19 Inter-state one-day league
- U19 Inter-state T20 league
- U19 T20 Challenger Trophy
There used to be inter-zonal one-day and T20 tournaments, as well as a two-day competition at the zonal level, but this has now been scrapped.
The International Cricket Council has announced a Women’s Under-19 World Cup as well. Unfortunately, the first edition was delayed by the pandemic. But when it starts, what it means is that there will be an India Women Under-19 team, which will be the highest you can reach at this age group.
The U23 tournaments held by BCCI are:
- U23 Inter-state one-day league
- U23 Inter-state T20 league
- U23 T20 Challenger Trophy
- U23 One-day Challenger Trophy
There used to be inter-zonal one-day and T20 competitions as well, but those have been scrapped.
The senior tournaments held by BCCI are:
- Senior Women’s Inter-state One-day League (Plate and Elite groups) and Knockout
- Senior Women’s Inter-state T20 League and Knockout
- Senior Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy
- Senior Women’s One-day Challenger Trophy
- Women’s T20 Challenge
Your figures in these games will count towards your career List A or T20 stats.
Once you get into the senior team of any state, the national selectors will be monitoring your performances. If your numbers are consistently good for a couple of years at least, you might break into the Indian women’s cricket team. For example, Indrani Roy had an excellent Senior One-Day Trophy in 2020-21. She finished as the leading run-scorer and got selected for the Indian squad for their tour of England. But for a while, she had been on the selectors’ radar and had been selected for the Challenger tournaments as well.
Challenger Trophy bridge tournament
For each age group, the Challenger trophy is played between three teams featuring a mix of the top 45 players (or so) in India in that category. Teams are generally named after colours: India Blue, India Red, India Green. The national selectors choose these players and divide them into the teams.
The senior Challenger Trophy thus is the most prestigious national-level tournament. The three teams lock horns in a round-robin (ie everyone plays everyone) or double round-robin (everyone plays everyone else twice) format followed by a final. Usually, India Green is made of U19 players.
Good performances in the Challenger Trophy are rewarded with call-ups to the India A or national sides.
Women’s T20 Challenge
The Women’s T20 Challenge is similar to the Challenger Trophy in that there are currently three teams, Supernovas, Trailblazers and Velocity. But the standard is slightly higher than that of Challenger Trophy, because it also features big international names. It’s thus like a mini-IPL.
Good performances in the T20 Challenge will help you make a case for yourself to be in the India A or even the India Women teams.
Hopefully in a couple of years, we can add a women’s IPL to this list!
India A is the level just before the Indian women’s cricket team. The teams may also be called Board President’s XI. At this level, players have a chance to work with national coaches and face international opponents. The selectors will be watching to see if you are ready to face international quality attacks.
It is also a chance for international players who have been dropped to regain their form and claim their place in the national side again.
When you get into India A you will play:
- Practice matches against touring teams before they play the international matches
- ‘A’ series or ‘Emerging’ series with other international sides of A sides. For example, in 2020, BCCI organised a quadrangular series between India A, India B, Thailand and Bangladesh.
Do well and selectors won’t be able to ignore you for India!
So there you have it. It’s a long process, and may take you a few years, but don’t give up!