Marizanne Kapp, Stafanie Taylor, Suzie Bates and Fatima Sana will play alongside cricketers from countries including Bhutan, Brazil and Vanuatu in a first-of-its-kind women's T20 event in Dubai starting May 1. The privately funded six-team tournament, conceptualised by gender-equality operation Fairbreak, brings together cricketers from 35 countries for 19 matches over 15 days.
However, there is uncertainty over the availability of Indian players including Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj, with doubts over whether the BCCI will grant them NOCs - they are expected to take part in an upcoming domestic T20 tournament, set to run till May 4. Organisers had announced last year that Kaur would lead one of the teams but it doesn't look so clear-cut now.
Fairbreak was initially launched as the Women's International Cricket League by former Australia captain Lisa Sthalekar and inter-personal best-practice expert Shaun Martyn, with the intention of growing the women's game after the 2013 World Cup. They have since fielded teams in exhibition matches such as against the Sir Paul Getty Women's XI at Wormsley and against WBBL franchises, but this is their first venture into a multi-team tournament. Called the Fairbreak Invitational, the tournament is organised by Hong Kong Cricket - the inaugural competition was due to be held in Hong Kong but had to be moved because of Covid-19 travel restrictions - and has been sanctioned by the ICC.
"There's never been a cricket tournament like it," Martyn told BBC Stumped recently. "As far as I know, there's never been 36 [35, if the Indians don't take part] countries involved in any team sporting event outside of an Olympic Games. Over the years, we've identified and unearthed a lot of talent in Associate nations that you don't get to see because there's not the opportunity for them to play."
On Fairbreak's books are 40 players from Full-Member countries, including Deandra Dottin, Sune Luus and Sophie Devine. There is likely to be a contingent of England players involved as well, pending NOCs being granted. And approximately 50 players from Associate countries are in the mix too. All the players are contracted for the duration of the tournament and earning the kind of money that can be "life-changing," Martyn said.
There will be no auction or draft for the tournament, but players have been divided into teams by the organisers themselves. Not all the finalised squads have been released yet but one of them, Tornadoes, will be captained by Taylor and features Devine, Luus, Katey Martin, Diana Baig, Aliya Riaz and Hong Kong's Maryam Bibi and Natasha Miles.
Other Associate players to look out for are Maryam Omar, the captain of Kuwait who is a civil engineer by trade, 17-year-old American cricketer Geetika Kodali, and Bhutan's Anju Gurung, a left-arm inswing bowler who only plays against men in her own country. "When you marry that talent with the better-known international players then it's quite a powerful mix of talent," Martyn said.
The six teams have all got commercial brand partners, including the Barmy Army, who are backing a yet-to-be-named team coached by England's Lydia Greenway. Other coaching staff include former internationals Charlotte Edwards, Anju Jain, Julia Price, Joanne Broadbent and Mohtashim Rasheed, a former head coach of the Pakistan women's team. Among the assistant coaches are former Ireland captain and current Hong Kong coach Trent Johnston.
The tournament is set to be screened on a host of international broadcast services with a vision to be staged biannually, with events in Dubai and Hong Kong in the future.