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HomeWorldCricket: Inaugural Women’s Premier League set to start in India

Cricket: Inaugural Women’s Premier League set to start in India


More money. Even more hype. Plan more. Women’s cricket is about to be transformed with the arrival of the new franchise Twenty20 (T20) tournament in India.

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) kicks off in Mumbai on Saturday with top players from around the world, just a week after Australia defended their T20 World Cup title in South Africa.

The WPL has the backing of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in the wake of the hugely successful Indian Premier League (IPL), the leading franchise league in the sport.

“The Women’s Premier League is a huge development. Female cricketers in India will now stick to the sport longer, and in the longer term it will only benefit Indian cricket,” Mithali Raj, a former India captain and mentor to the Gujarat Giants.

“The league will expand in the future and make the women’s game financially viable.”

Mithali Raj, Former India captain and Gujarat Giants mentor (File: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters)

The BCCI resisted calls for a women’s T20 match for many years, citing a lack of interest from sponsors and broadcasters, but did run a four match Women’s T20 Challenge to parallel the IPL knockouts. Other countries, including Australia, which has dominated women’s cricket, and England, have taken the lead in women’s franchise leagues.

But late last year, India’s mighty cricketing government finally swung into action after a financial research report revealed a strong interest in women’s T20 cricket and the WPL was born.

Five franchises in the inaugural tournament were auctioned in January and collectively sold for $580 million. Three existing men’s IPL teams – Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals – purchased WPL franchises based in Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi.

Two new franchises were established, with Adani Group and Capri Global buying the Gujarat Giants, based in Ahmedabad, and UP Warriorz in Lucknow.

The three-week tournament has 22 matches, including 20 in the league stage and two knockouts, all of which will be played in the inaugural season in Mumbai. It starts with Gujarat Giants against Mumbai Indians.

The WPL has already become the most lucrative women’s cricket property in the world in terms of franchise and player values.

Nearly 1,500 candidates applied for 90 spots — including 30 for internationals — in the player auctions held on Feb. 13, when each franchise had a $1.5 million cap. All but three positions were filled on auction day.

India’s star batsman Smriti Mandhana was the most expensive player in the auction, and Royal Challengers Bangalore successfully bid $413,950 for her.

Australian all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner went to the Gujarat Giants and England all-rounder Natalie Sciver went to the Mumbai Indians in the best deals for foreign players at around $390,000 each.

India national team captain Harmanpreet Kaur went to the Mumbai Indians for $220,000 and will lead the franchise in its inaugural season.

Australian cricketers were in high demand for their leadership skills. Multiple ICC World Cup winner Meg Lanning will lead Delhi Capitals, star batsman Beth Mooney will lead Gujarat Giants and star wicketkeeper batsman Alyssa Healy will lead UP Warriorz.

Bangalore is the first title favorite with the likes of Mandhana, Sophie Devine (New Zealand), Ellyse Perry (Australia), Heather Knight (England) and India’s top wicketkeeper-batter Richa Ghosh.

Viacom18 has bought the worldwide television and digital broadcast rights to the tournament for $120 million over five years, more than it paid for the rights to the South African men’s league for a decade, but a relative bargain compared to the IPL.

Although still in its infancy, the WPL is still widely expected to raise the profile of women’s sports in India and raise the aspirations of future generations of players.

Together with the media rights for the first five seasons, the WPL has already netted India’s cricket board a shade less than $700 million, making it the second most valuable domestic women’s sports league in the world after American professional basketball.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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