Legendary India batter Sachin Tendulkar believes the inaugural edition of ICC U19 Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa holds a lot of promise and has the potential to transform the landscape for women's cricket worldwide.
The inaugural U19 Women's T20 World Cup is set to begin on January 14 with 16 teams vying to make history by becoming the first to get their hands on the coveted trophy.
All 41 games will be played in Benoni and Potchefstroom, with the final to be held on January 29. "This season is huge for women's cricket as fans around the world shift their gaze to South Africa for the ICC Under-19 Women's T20 World Cup and the ICC Women's T20 World Cup.
While the Women's T20 World Cup has been played for several years now, the Under-19 event is a first-time event and one that holds a lot of promise." "I think this can transform the landscape since a global platform will ensure great learning and experience for young women cricketers.
Though women's cricket has made huge strides, there are areas still to be tapped," wrote Tendulkar in his column for the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Friday. Tendulkar also wrote for more investment to unearth more talented female cricketers, which can happen through the U19 Women's T20 World Cup.
"What is required right now is a more robust grassroots system across the world. The larger we spread the base, the more talent we will unearth and that will have a direct bearing on the quality of the game."
"I feel the inaugural tournament will ensure that happens. Going beyond showcasing the best junior talent of the world, will ensure more investment in junior cricket in different countries, resulting in a consistent feeder line for future U19 World Cups as well as senior cricket.
We have already seen this happen as Cricket Boards have either announced or are planning more age-group tournaments for girls." Citing the likes of Virat Kohli, Ben Stokes, Kane Williamson, Kagiso Rabada, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shubman Gill, who first captured the attention of the world through Men's U19 World Cups, Tendulkar hopes that the upcoming tournament and editions thereafter can have a similar impact on women's cricket.
"I am sure that in the years to come, we will hear of many girls who mature into top-class cricketers from the U19 system. It really helps that this is a 16-team tournament and encourages teams beyond the traditional cricket markets because we have seen that women's cricket can outdo men's cricket in certain places - Brazil and Thailand being some examples."
Asked about his favourites to win the inaugural tournament, Tendulkar wishes for India, led by Shafali Verma, to go all the way to the trophy. "The Indian Men's U19 sides have traditionally been strong, winning the title five times."
"I would say that the women's team can be one of the standout sides this time. The team has a good balance of few experienced players as well as young talented prospects both in the batting as well as bowling department."
Immediately after the conclusion of the tournament, the Women's T20 World Cup will be held in South Africa from February 10-26. Tendulkar sees the back-to-back events as an opportunity for the game to leave a legacy in South Africa and wished India to break their trophy jinx in the senior women's T20 World Cup.
"The ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020 final between Australia and India at the MCG had seen more than eighty-five thousand fans in attendance and that has been a huge moment for the women's game.
Who would have thought a few years ago that female cricketers would be playing in a packed MCG, or for that matter, in a packed Lord's for the final of the ICC Women's World Cup three years earlier!"
"Two-time defending champions Australia obviously go in as the favourites for the senior event while Harmanpreet's side will be looking for their breakout moment after India missed out on World Cup titles in three previous finals - the 50-over World Cups of 2005 and 2017 and the 2020 T20 World Cup."
"I wish the Indian team as well as the players from the other teams all the very best for these two tournaments. Of course, players will aim for victories, but I would ask everyone to just go out and enjoy playing the game on the biggest stage. As for me, I am excited and looking forward to all the action."