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Seven-team women's IPL 'four years away' - Sourav Ganguly

Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana pose for the cameras in Jaipur PTI

As India head into a Women's T20 World Cup year in search of their maiden title, there has been a chorus among the current and former internationals - both from India and overseas- to have a full-fledged women's IPL. However, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly thinks such a tournament - involving seven or eight teams - is at least "four years away".

"You need to understand the practicality of it," he told India Today. "You need a lot more women players. I see that in four years' time, to get a seven-team IPL with the best women players [in participation]."

After what began as an exhibition in 2018, the BCCI turned the Women's T20 Challenge into a three-team event in Jaipur in 2019.

Senior players and coaches unanimously gave the tournament a thumbs-up. Encouraged by the response, the board has initiated discussions on converting it into a four-team event, with each side playing the other twice.

India's successful hosting of South Africa in Surat, where record crowds turned up to cheer both teams, has got the BCCI thinking about hosting next year's Women's T20 challenge there before taking it to other cities as well.

While this is a direct consequence of increased popularity in the women's game since India's stupendous run to the final at the 2017 World Cup, the domestic game is yet to grow at the same rate.

To some extent, BCCI's re-introduction of the A tours for women is seen as a step towards bridging the gap between domestic and international cricket. An India A team will go to Australia on a shadow tour before the senior team's tri-series in January, with a number of hopefuls having the opportunity to stake claim for a T20 World Cup berth.

Steps like these, according to Ganguly, will only help increase the push for women's cricket. At the same time, he also wants the state associations to do much more to widen their talent pool.

"You have to let the state association teams get stronger, a lot of them are getting stronger," he said. "The push for women's cricket has been enormous over the last few years. Three years down the line, when you have 150-160 players, you can take the IPL forward. Right now, we have 50-60 players. With the push BCCI has for women's cricket, that will only increase."