Dusk on Saturday will see a new dawn for women’s cricket.
The Women’s Premier League, the first ball of which will be bowled at the D.Y. Patil Stadium here at 7.30 p.m., is sure to change the women’s game. Not just in India, its ripples will be felt across the cricketing world.
Long in the making
Like what the IPL did for men’s cricket. If the IPL was the BCCI’s instant response to the Indian Cricket League, which was threatening to play the role of disrupter, the WPL has been in the making for a long time.
As precursor to the tournament, the Women’s T20 Challenge was conducted in 2018 in Mumbai.
It was just a one-match affair, with the BCCI putting together two teams comprising Indian and foreign players. Trailblazers were led by Smriti Mandhana and Supernovas by Harmanpreet Kaur.
At the WPL, they are the captains of Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians. Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney were among the overseas players then.
The Aussie trio are leading Delhi Capitals, UP Warriorz and Gujarat Giants. Fellow Australians Ellyse Perry and Meghan Schutt, along with New Zealand’s Sophie Devine, were also there and are back for the WPL, too.
The T20 Challenge grew to a three-team tournament in 2019. Then things finally fell into place for the launch of the WPL, with the BCCI announcing in late January the five franchises that won bids to own teams. The BCCI’s coffers became richer by a staggering ₹4,700 crore. The media rights had already fetched ₹951 crore.
The auctions were held at Mumbai three weeks ago. Now the stage is set for what is already the second-richest cricket league (after the IPL, of course). The BCCI could afford to smile.
Come a long way
The smiles are broader on the faces of India’s women cricketers, who had been the poor relatives for decades until the BCCI took them under its wing. They used to travel unreserved on trains, on bullock carts and tongas even, and stayed in dormitories.
Now they fly around the globe and check into five-star hotels.
Their parents are no longer worried about their complexions being ruined by playing in the sun.
By the time the curtains come down on the WPL on March 26, the number of those parents will have increased. That will make Indian women’s cricket stronger.
Today’s match: Gujarat Giants vs. Mumbai Indians, 7.30 p.m.