Indian women’s cricket team opener Shafali Varma, left-arm spinner Radha Yadav and wicket-keeper Richa Ghosh are set to ply their trade in the Women's Big Bash League. However, they are not the first to play in overseas cricket leagues.

In June 2016, the BCCI’s women’s committee gave the green light for its women cricketers to participate in overseas leagues in Australia and England. This paved the way for Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues to earn valuable experiences away from home.

If anything, this landmark development has been a boon for the Indian women’s cricket team, who went on to make their maiden appearance in the knockouts of a T20 World Cup (2018 edition) after a gap of eight years.

Furthermore, the Women’s Cricket Challenge - which began in 2018 - has been a perfect ground for more talent to be unearthed as senior players like Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami are in the twilight of their careers.

With the BCCI forbidding the active men’s cricket team players to participate in overseas cricket leagues, the women cricketers are allowed to elevate the growth of the sport within the community.

Who is the first Indian women cricketer to sign for an overseas team?

In 2016, Indian women’s cricket team T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur became the first Indian women cricketer to sign up for the Women's Big Bash League. The all-rounder signed with the then-defending champions Sydney Thunder and played from 2016-17 till the end of the 2018-19 season.

Harmanpreet had a memorable debut season, as she scored 296 runs in 12 innings at an impressive average of 59.20 and bagged six wickets to be adjudged as the Sydney Thunder’s WBBL player of the tournament. The 32-year-old, going forward, played in 35 matches, tallying 713 runs and 12 wickets.

Harmanpreet Kaur’s stellar debut in Australia earned her a contract with Surrey Stars in 2017. However, she never played as she had to recuperate from a shoulder injury.

Smriti Mandhana, the first Indian women cricketer to play in Women’s Super League

After her stint with Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League, Smriti Mandhana signed with defending champions Western Storm in 2018. While compatriot Harmanpreet Kaur received a contract a year prior, Smriti Mandhana became the first Indian women cricketer to debut in the Women’s Super League.

Throughout the campaign, Smriti set many records, such as the fastest fifty (18 balls), the first Indian woman to score a century (103), and the highest runs by an Indian in a single campaign (421 runs).

Jemimah Rodrigues sets all-time record at Yorkshire Diamonds

In 2019, Yorkshire Diamonds signed 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues for the fourth and final edition of the Women’s Super League. The rest is history.

The Mumbai-born cricketer, who had represented the Indian women’s cricket team in 25 matches before the Yorkshire Diamonds deal, smashed a 51-ball century against Southern Vipers. This went down in the books as the fastest century in the tournament’s history. Jemimah Rodrigues finished her innings at 112.

Jemimah Rodrigues broke the record of the highest individual score set by Smriti Mandhana in the 2018 edition, and her 58-ball 112 remains an unbroken record following the discontinuation of the tournament.

The largest Indian contingent in an overseas league

The Indian women cricketers are set to return for the latest edition of the Women’s Big Bash League, and as per reports, as many as eight players have been signed by franchise teams, making it India's largest contingent yet in any overseas league.

Earlier this year, the inaugural 100-ball League saw five Indians ply their trade. Smriti Mandhana’s Southampton team reached the final but the 25-year-old pulled out of the competition to spend time with her family before departing for a tour of Australia.

List of Indian women cricketers who played in overseas leagues

Name Leagues Teams
Harmanpreet Kaur Women’s Big Bash League, Kia Super League, 100-ball League Sydney Thunder, Surrey Stars (contract signed but never played), Lancashire Thunder, Manchester, Melbourne Renegades
Smriti Mandhana Women’s Big Bash League, Kia Super League, 100-ball League Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Western Storm, Southampton, Sydney Thunder
Jemimah Rodrigues Women’s Big Bash League, Kia Super League, 100-ball League Melbourne Renegades, Yorkshire Diamonds, Leeds
Shafali Verma Women’s Big Bash League, 100-ball League Sydney Sixers, Birmingham
Deepti Sharma Women’s Big Bash League, 100-ball League Sydney Thunder, Lord's London
Radha Yadav Women's Big Bash League Sydney Sixers
Richa Ghosh Women's Big Bash League Hobart Hurricanes
Poonam Yadav Women's Big Bash League Brisbane Heat

Featured photo: 2021 Cricket Australia