Cricket's revolution in the Kingdom gathered pace over the weekend as the Bahrain Cricket Federation (BCF) launched its first National Women's League.
The National Day celebration in a match watched by hundreds near the National Stadium in Isa Town was the perfect way to kick off an initiative that demonstrates the intent of the newly formed board.
“Bahrain Cricket Federation is delighted to launch the T20 Women’s League and provide a pathway for our talented Women Cricketers to play in ICC T20 Internationals,” said Bahrain Cricket Board Advisory Group chairman Mohammmed Mansoor.
“We are also exploring further opportunities to launch the GCC Women’s T20 Cup in consultation with other GCC Cricket Boards, which will further drive women’s cricket to greater heights.”
A spectacular inaugural ceremony, featuring Bollywood dance and singing by schoolchildren, was a prelude to fireworks on the pitch.
The guest of honour was Yusuf Lori, director of Information and follow-up at Capital Governorate, joined by several board members and sponsor representatives.
BCF president Hatim Dadabhai encouraged all players to get together and fulfil their dream of becoming a cricketer and making Bahrain proud.
While there have been isolated matches for women and short cricket competitions for girls, this is the first time that there has been a formal league.
It will be contested by eight sides playing each other twice in the T20 format. At the end of the league, the winner will be decided in a knockout structure identical to that first introduced in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The inaugural coin toss was won by the HPCA Queens. Electing to chase a target, Captain Pavithra Shetty’s choice was validated by a fine opening spell as she shared the new ball with Deepika.
Under the watchful eye of Bahrain Womens’ national manager Shailla Khan, the tight bowling forced the BCF Red opening batters to take chances, resulting in the first wicket falling to a run-out and Nawal Tahir departing after a watchful start.
Her opening partner was starting to look more comfortable at the crease and escalated the run rate hitting two beautiful boundaries before being bowled by Shasikala Prakash.
The best of the bowlers was Swarna Sathish whose four overs went for a miserly seven runs, only four of which came off the bat.
BCF Red finished with 100 runs for seven wickets from their 20 overs with Hema Raghavendar being the top scorer with 18 runs.
HPCA Queens made short work of the run chase, reaching their required total in just under 12 overs. Demonstrating strength throughout, their runs were shared between Deepika and Poorvaja Jagadish while Shetty and Asha remained undefeated at the end to see their side to victory. HPCA won the competition opener by six wickets.
Tahir became the first Bahraini to take a wicket after bowling to Jagadish, who was caught out by team captain Nandana Abhyankar.
Despite defeat, BCF Red, a team comprised of a number of Bahraini players, took some consolation with Raghavendar claiming the Player of the Match award for her all-round performance.
“This T20 Women’s League is a first step towards our vision to promote Women’s Cricket throughout Bahrain to all ages and nationalities,” BCF general secretary Anoop Kewalram noted.
“I am pleased that we have Bahraini women actively playing cricket and we look forward to increasing this participation at the grassroots level.”
In a separate event, the Bahrain Rugby Football Club hosted its annual ‘Yo Ho Ho Cricket’ match, which saw the launch of its own women’s cricket team. The Red Crickets hope to facilitate several more teams entering Bahrain’s cricket leagues.
The ladies ran out victorious to ensure a Merry Christmas!