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WPL: A pivotal moment for women’s cricket


Over the better part of last decade, there has been a relentless media campaign, much more vocal in social media than the traditional one though, to promote women’s cricket in India. One of the many demands of the campaigners was to organise a T20 league for women, on the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Their relentlessness has finally paid off as the first edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) is set to begin tonight at Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium with Gujarat Giants taking on Mumbai Indians in the first match. All 22 matches, including the final, will be played in Mumbai.

It’s a pivotal moment for women’s cricket both in the country as well as the world considering India being the biggest market for the sport.

The fact that it has happened eight years after Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) started in Australia and four editions of the Women’s T20 Challenge, an exhibition event played during the IPL, shows how reluctant the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been and the status of women’s sports in India.

There were doubts about the viability of a standalone league for women and the depth of talent in India. But, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The five teams that were put up for bidding collectively fetched the BCCI a whopping Rs 4,669 crore, an average of Rs 933 crore per franchise.

The broadcast rights were sold for another Rs 951 crore (or Rs 190.2 crore per season), making it one of the biggest investments ever in a women’s sport.“We are glad that this important journey in women’s cricket has begun,” said Rajesh Sharma, managing director of UP Warriorz, owned by Capri Global, a financial services company.

“This is a shot in the arm for women’s cricket.”

Dhiraj Malhotra, chief executive officer of Delhi Capitals, believes the WPL will do for women’s cricket what the IPL did for men’s cricket by popularizing the sport and making it more financially lucrative for the players as well as other stakeholders.

“The caliber of Indian players has grown since the start of the IPL, and I am hoping that the same would happen with the women’s teams as well,” Malhotra said.
“Women’s cricket has been on the rise, you look at the TV rights, and sponsorships, it has all grown from what it used to be, and it will only go higher.”

New Era
The BCCI has launched the WPL using the same template that they used in 2008 to create the IPL. In fact, three out of five WPL teams have been picked by existing owners of IPL franchises. JSW and GMR, co-owners of Delhi Capitals spent Rs 810 crore, while Mumbai Indians owners, Reliance Industries, paid Rs 912.99 crore to add to their portfolio. Diageo-owned Royal Challengers Bangalore also made a winning bid of Rs 901 crore to acquire the women’s Bengaluru franchise.

The other two went to new entrants to Indian cricket. Capri Global paid the lowest amount of Rs 787 crore for the Uttar Pradesh franchise, and Adani Sportsline spent a humongous Rs 1,289 crore for the Gujarat team. They both also own teams in the UAE’s International League T20.

It’s being projected as the beginning of a new era in women’s cricket. It’s not an overstatement.

As much as Rs 59.5 crore were spent during the auction. As many as 10 Indian players earned more than Rs 1 crore, including the highest bid of Rs 3.4 crore for Smriti Mandhana. This is an unprecedented amount of money in women’s cricket.

“I think this is a great platform for all Indian players because we have been missing this tournament for a long time,” said Indian women’s cricket team captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who will be leading Mumbai Indians in the WPL,.

“Definitely for Australia and England the WBBL and Hundred have worked very well and after those tournaments they’ve got so much young talent.

“After the WPL we are also going to get some good talent and I’m sure the difference you’re talking about [between India and Australia sides] we’d love to cut down. When you see good talent coming up, you’re definitely going to make a good team after the WPL.”

‘Learning on the Go’
The inaugural season of a new tournament is always full of unknowns. Though the T20 format has been there for many years now and some of the players already have experience of playing in franchise leagues like Australia’s WBBL and England’s The Hundred, there will be several other factors that will pose fresh challenges.

To begin with, there will be a diverse mix of players who would be sharing dressing rooms and training with Indian stars as well as up and coming local players. As many as six countries – Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and USA – are represented by 30 overseas players in the WPL.

Everyone, including coaches and team management, got a very short period to develop an understanding with each other and form a competitive combination, if not a winning one.

Gujarat Giants coach Rachael Haynes, who played for Australia as recently as the 2022 Commonwealth Games where they won gold by beating India in the final, understands the challenge a new tournament can pose and expects everyone “to learn a few things as we go along.”

“T20 cricket is all about adaptability on the go,” said the six-time world champion Haynes, who played six Tests, 74 ODIs and 85 T20Is for Australia.

Haynes played 99 matches for Sydney Thunders in the WBBL and led them to their second and last title in 2020-21. Her mantra for success can be summarized in four Cs. “Consistency, clarity, creativity and continuity – if we can all keep to these broad themes, then one can build on the momentum. You have to take things one day at a time and plan thoroughly and trust the processes. And even if there is a hiccup, you take it in your stride and keep going,” Haynes said.

Tonight, the action is set to move out of the corporate offices and practice nets to the field of play, the most important place in any sport. It’s here where the success of the league will be decided.



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