Plymouth-educated England captain Heather Knight has praised the supportive words of Ben Stokes in calling for a women’s version of the Indian Premier League.
Stokes, England’s highest-profile cricketer, started his own IPL campaign this week when the all-rounder’s Rajasthan Royals team faced Punjab Kings in Mumbai.
However, it was Stokes’ support for a women’s IPL when speaking in India that caught the attention of Knight. The hero of England’s 2019 World Cup win had said he was ‘very hopeful’ that a women’s IPL would be formed soon, adding: “What better place to do it than out here in India?”
And Knight, who led England’s women to World Cup success in 2017, following a thrilling Lord’s final against India, said: “It was awesome to see Stokesy talk about the women’s IPL.
‘I think the more allies we have in women’s cricket really helps to change perceptions. It was great for Ben to say that and I totally agree – I think it would be amazing for the women’s game to have an IPL.
‘You’ve seen it in Australia with the Big Bash and hopefully here with the Hundred having men’s and women’s competitions alongside each other. It’s a really positive thing for the women’s game and really helps to progress things so, yes, it was really nice to see Ben make those comments.”
Since being formed in 2008, the IPL has become the pre-eminent T20 competition, with players from around the world gaining huge amounts of experience and huge pay packets in the process.
However, unlike Australia’s Big Bash or the Hundred, a women’s version of the T20 competition has never been played.
While that may take time to come to fruition in India, Knight is thankful the England & Wales Cricket Board have made such an effort to ensure the Hundred will be a gender-balanced tournament when it starts this summer.
As well as equal prize money, it is a women’s match between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals live on the BBC at prime time, that will open the new competition on July 21st.
It will be one of eight women’s games shown live on free-to-air television across the month-long tournament.
“I think it’ll be quite hard to beat lifting the World Cup on home soil,” said Knight. “But I think this is the next level in terms of the women’s game in this country.
‘When you switch on the Hundred as a young kid, as a young girl, you’re going to see women’s cricket and men’s cricket put on the same pedestal.
‘It’s the same branding, matches at the same venue etc, and I think that’s great and really important to do that to change the perception of people getting involved in cricket. If you’re a young girl and you see people like you playing cricket at the highest level, that’s going to encourage you to see that cricket is a sport for you.
‘So I think it’s great. Little things like the first-ever game in the Hundred being a women’s game is a really big step. It’s going to be a huge summer and hopefully it goes really well.”
As well as the Hundred, the domestic structure for the women’s game that will see 41 professionally-contracted players participate in this summer’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint 50-over competition as an important step for the sport.
“I know the Hundred gets spoken about quite a lot because that’s the big competition but I think the real big changes in the domestic set-up is going to be even more important in creating that depth below the England side,” said Knight.