Padding up for women power
The inaugural edition of the much-awaited Women’s Premier League (WPL), scheduled to be hosted at two centres in Mumbai from March 4 to 26, could not have come at a better time – following close on the heels of the ongoing Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa.
With the cream of the player crop competing for the global crown and the WPL franchises – five in the initial years – making moves off the field, women’s cricket is currently drawing a lot of eyeballs. The WPL, many believe, will mark the beginning of something special for women’s cricket that has, in a sense, been in the shadow of men’s cricket, which saw a revolutionary change post the introduction of the Indian Premier League in 2008.
The involvement of three IPL franchises in the WPL – Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals – will massively help the League’s cause, as was evident in the recent player auction in Mumbai. After playing an integral part in the meteoric rise of one ‘No.18’ – the legendary Virat Kohli – Royal Challengers went all out for another ‘No.18’ – Smriti Mandhana – to make her the face of its women’s team.
Bangalore broke the bank and shelled out a whopping Rs 3.4 crore, more than 25 per cent of its purse (Rs 12 crore), as Mandhana became the highest-paid player in the WPL Season 1. To put things into perspective, the India opener’s WPL salary is more than the total purse of Southern Brave, the team she turns out for in The Hundred in England.
Royal Challengers, which stayed away from investing in other men’s T20 leagues around the world in order to buy a WPL franchise, then did its bit to promote gender equality in a refreshing social media post that contained a video titled ‘Class of 2023’.
Meanwhile, Mumbai, the most successful IPL franchise with five League titles in its cabinet, did not want to be left behind in the race. Just like Bangalore, Mumbai managed to complete a ‘double’, now owning the captains of both the India men’s and women’s teams – Rohit Sharma and Harmanpreet Kaur respectively.
With MI also pulling off social media buzz similar to that of RCB, it is heartening to see the franchises pull out all stops to popularise the League. Newcomers to the Indian T20 cricket family, Gujarat Giants and UP Warriorz too are keen to make a mark at the earliest.
The numbers are already there for everyone to see – be it franchises’ price, broadcast rights value, title sponsor deal and player auction – the WPL is heading in the right direction. It is now time for the players to put on a spectacle and etch their names in the history books.
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