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WPL 2023: Something unfamiliar in women’s cricket in India where talent earns opportunity

Women's Premier League (WPL) 2023: Something unfamiliar in women’s cricket in India where talent earns opportunity. What India could expect from WPL 2023?

WPL 2023: Women's Premier League's first season begins from 04th March 2023 | Walking Wicket (Images: ©wplt20/Twitter)
WPL 2023 first season kicks off with MI vs GG game (Images: ©wplt20/Twitter)

The hype around a franchise cricket tournament with real excitement and media attention around players isn’t an unfamiliar scene in India, but that being associated with women is little unusual. Even if someone is on another planet, there are still high chances of them being aware of the rise of women’s cricket in India.

“Your name will be on every tongue” – The promo of maiden edition of WPL

The recent television advertisement for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 was perhaps the real picture where India is slowly heading towards. It showed that a lady was asking for Sharma’s cricket jersey to which the sports owner provided him one with Rohit Sharma’s name printed on it. But when she asked for the other Sharma’s cricket jersey, she was laughed at by the staff at the shop for not knowing cricket. The lady responded with a photo of Deepti Sharma, also an India cricketer.

Probably the promo for the maiden edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) in 2023 that says, ‘Har zubaan par naam tera (Your Name will be on every tongue)’, is a fitting one for the high voltage game.

There is no doubt about the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Cricketers have been household names in India for a long time now but now it’s time to break the barrier and going one step forward as women’s cricket is also going to be explored with the same frenzy.

Women’s Premier League - Another event that carries big bucks

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) has taken time but to materialise but as it has finally started, along with the well-deserved opportunities for the ladies in blue, the money threshold too is going to touch all the records.

Even before its commencement, the WPL has already registered as the second-richest franchise-based cricket league in the world across genders, after the IPL, as the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Jay Shah. It is also the third-richest franchise-based women’s league in the world across sports, just after the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Women’s Super League.

In the middle of January, the media rights for the first five seasons of the league was grabbed by Viacom18 media for a whopping INR 951 crore - which translates to around INR 7.09 crore per match. With the addition of the sponsorship money and ticket sales and other commercial revenues, a single game may well bring roughly INR 13 crore just for the teams.

The best thing BCCI has done is making the entry of ladies in the ground free during the games which will attract much more engagement throughout the whole season.

Collaborative amount of INR 4699.99 crore for all the teams

The five teams - Gujarat Giants, Mumbai Indians Women, UP Warriorz, Royal Challengers Bangalore Women and Delhi Capitals Women - were bought for a collective amount of INR 4,669.99 crore. Gujarat Giants was sold for INR 1289 crore, the highest, whereas Mumbai Indians went for INR 912.99 crore. Royal Challengers Bangalore Women, Delhi Capitals Women and UP Warriorz were sold for INR 901 crore, INR 810 crore and INR 757 crore respectively.

To add more spice in it, the bidding for teams for the WPL broke the records of the inaugural men’s IPL in 2008. From the moment India’s Smriti Mandhana was snatched by RCB-W at INR 3.4 crore (almost 28.3 per cent of the total purse) during the auction, it just took off and didn’t look back. If the upward trend is anything to go by, money is expected to flow around in the upcoming seasons.

Meanwhile, Tata Group bagged the title rights for the tournament. However, the correct number of the financials have been kept secret; according to sources, it’s going to be around 3-5 pc of what the company is paying for the IPL currently.

“The fact that teams in the WPL have been sold, players have been auctioned and media rights have been secured is a very positive sign for the league’s prospects; it suggests that there is significant interest and investment in women’s cricket,” Santosh N, the managing partner of D and P Advisory, a valuation services provider and boutique transaction advisory firm, expressed. “The WPL has the potential to provide female cricketers with a higher earning potential, which could further increase their visibility and status within the sport.”

However, the current viewership for women’s cricket in India is still a very small number. That’s where the TV broadcasters can explore it widely where it can catch more attention by building brand awareness. If the interest and viewership fly high, it can affect the advertisement rates, depending on many factors like the popularity of players, the quality of the games, the importance of the game and so on.

Guidance and learnings - the aim for young India players

Just like how the Indian Premier League over the years has offered India so many new players like Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, the WPL is expected to do the same in women’s cricket. With the exposure provided by foreign players and playing under some of the leaders, the young blood will understand more depth of the game; it’s sort of a dream come true moment for them.

There was a time when most of the franchises in IPL used to look at the overseas players to bail them out in any pressure situation but now, with the success and talent pool available in India, the dice has been turned as most of the domestic Indian players have all the abilities to crack the code of any given situation.

There are few stories where some of the girls were almost on the verge of giving up cricket due to their poor financial condition, but the WPL has given them the stage to take care of it too. The 15-year-old Shafali Verma, who inspired Kerala-born Minnu Mani to play cricket, went on to represent India and is today an Under-19 World Cup winning captain. Mani and Verma are now teammates at Delhi Capitals.

“We already saw with the T20 Challenge, even though it was just four games or something, the effect it had on the Indian uncapped players,” Mamatha Maben, the former India captain commented on the massive success of the WPL. “Now, with more and more exposure to international players, coaches and modern methods, players will become more aware.”

Sneh Rana was thinking of quitting the game in 2019, given she wasn’t part of the India team since 2016, doubting on her skills until one breakout domestic season made her return to the side; she has now been appointed as vice-captain of the Gujarat Giants. Even for the senior players, taking a leaf from the book of some of the international players of Australia and England is going to be so valuable.

“I personally feel it’s a great platform to know overseas players and take something from their experience,” current India captain Harmanpreet Kaur narrated how her time in WBBL and The Hundred changed her life entirely. “When I first played the WBBL (Women’s Big Bash League) and The Hundred, the amount of experience and confidence I got from there, the same amount of confidence I want our domestic players to get.”

WPL playing conditions: 2 referrals and 2 super overs, if needed

Unlike the IPL, the Women’s Premier League won’t have the rule for the impact player but there are quite a few things which are similar to the IPL - like two super overs, two strategic timeouts in each session of play and two referrals for each team in each innings.

In the playing conditions shared with the teams, the BCCI has declared that in case of a tie at the end of 40 overs, there will be a Super Over and if that doesn’t help, then there will be another Super Over. A batter has to come onto the field within 90 seconds of a dismissal and any delay could result in a warning followed by a penalty in the form of fine. The Concussion Replacement rules are there and a substitute can come from the 15 players nominated before the beginning of the game.

The league topper will enter the final directly. The second and third placed teams will play an Eliminator and the winner of that game will qualify for the final.

The Eliminator will be played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on March 24, while on March 26, the final is going to be hosted at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.


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