March 22, 2023

The inaugural season of the Girls’s Premier League (WPL) received beneath means in Mumbai on Saturday, and whereas the season may be 22 days lengthy, it may put girls’s cricket on a really totally different path.

“It is going to be maybe probably the most transformative competitors ever seen in girls’s cricket,” mentioned Melinda Farrell of ESPN, a number one authority on the girl’s sport.

The five-team match follows the fast-paced T20 format wherein video games final about three hours. The Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gujarat Giants, Mumbai Indians and Lucknow-based UP Warriors will compete until March 26.

The cash invested is already eye-catching. About $580m was spent on buying the 5 franchises in January. The broadcasting rights had been offered to Viacom18 for $117m over 5 years, a deal that’s the second highest per recreation in girls’s sport on this planet, behind solely basketball in the US.

“Such massive sums are each an indicator of the power of ladies’s cricket but additionally an enabler of additional adjustments to come back,” mentioned Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical financial system at SKEMA Enterprise Faculty in France.

“Traders within the sport acknowledge that there’s already vital widespread engagement with it, which, with improved management and administration, may yield higher returns sooner or later,” he mentioned.

In February, the Indian conglomerate Tata Group was introduced because the title sponsor for the primary 5 years, and whereas the quantity it paid has not been disclosed, it’s regarded as substantial.

“The extra money that enters the game, the extra money there shall be to develop gamers, create infrastructure and construct competitions,” Chadwick mentioned. “Cash is not the reply to each downside, however on this state of affairs, it actually helps.”

Girls’s cricket on the rise

The WPL was born at a time of rising curiosity in girls’s cricket all over the world.

In 2009, the Girls’s World Cup last between England and New Zealand was watched by slightly greater than 2,000 followers in Sydney. The 2020 last of the T20 World Cup, nevertheless, noticed 86,000 folks pack the Melbourne Cricket Floor.

“That reveals the curiosity there’s in going to the video games, not to mention watching that on TV,” Farrell mentioned. “The final T20 World Cup in Australia broke all data for attendance and viewing figures. There’s a international enhance in girls’s cricket, and that may translate into a whole lot of curiosity.”

There at the moment are extra competitions for girls. In 2021, The Hundred was born in England, a fair shorter format of the sport than T20 with simply 100 balls. It’s designed to draw new audiences which will discover the standard five-day check format too lengthy and too gradual.

Eight groups performed in a round-robin league format, which noticed a complete attendance of 271,000 final yr. In Australia, the 2021 last of the Girls’s Massive Bash attracted 535,000 viewers.

In Pakistan, one other cricket-loving nation in South Asia, there’s additionally curiosity.

The WPL “is a superb initiative that may put extra eyeballs on girls’s cricket”, mentioned sports activities commentator Umaid Wasim of Daybreak, one of many nation’s main newspapers.

“Similar to the boys’s leagues all over the world, this can see related girls’s leagues spring all throughout the globe with Pakistan attempting to carry the same match later this yr,” he mentioned.

Mumbai Indians' Amelia Kerr plays a shot during the 2023 Women's Premier League (WPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Gujarat Giants and Mumbai Indians
Amelia Kerr of the Mumbai Indians performs a shot within the Girls’s Premier League [Indranil Mukherjee/AFP]

The WPL would be the largest and most profitable girls’s cricket competitors. The February 13 public sale noticed almost 1,500 girls compete for its 90 spots – 18 in every franchise. India’s Smriti Mandhana will earn probably the most after Bangalore bid about $413,000 for her. All-rounders Ashleigh Gardner and Natalie Sciver from Australia and England, respectively, are the very best valued international gamers at $390,000 every.

Such sums could be game-changers for girls gamers all over the place.

“For a sport that’s nonetheless novice or semi-professional in lots of nations, these are eye-watering quantities,” Farrell mentioned. “It makes cricket appear to be a viable profession for girls and younger ladies. It ensures they’ll take a look at cricket as a full-time profession, and this can elevate the requirements as they’ll focus on cricket full time.”

There may be already a blueprint for fulfillment. The boys’s Indian Premier League (IPL) began in 2008 and has grown to be one of the crucial widespread, profitable and influential home sporting competitions on this planet.

In June, the IPL, which has grown from eight groups to 10, offered its media rights for a five-year interval for simply over $6bn, rivaling the likes of the English Premier League and Nationwide Soccer League in the US. Salaries are additionally excessive with England’s Sam Curran the highest earner at about $2.24m.

“The Indian Premier League cricket has for a very long time blazed a practice for males’s cricket internationally,” Chadwick mentioned. “Now it’s time for the ladies’s model to do the identical.”

“The urge for food for the sport in India, allied to the nation’s willingness to push the boundaries of manufacturing and consumption, is arguably the primary pressure that has pushed cricket into the twenty first century,” he mentioned.

The monetary rewards on provide in India imply that gamers usually prioritize the IPL over their nationwide groups.

In February, England check staff captain Ben Stokes performed his nation’s last check in opposition to New Zealand in Wellington with an injured knee. Regardless of England making ready to face massive rivals Australia in June, Stokes instantly made it clear that he would play for the Chennai Tremendous Kings from March to Might when he would earn about $2m.

With the sums on provide within the WPL, gamers are additionally prone to see the match as a precedence.

“There’s a window for the three tournaments with the IPL, Massive Bash in Australia and The Hundred in England, that are ring-fenced for the time being,” Farrell mentioned. “However there’s going to need to be a stability between franchise tournaments and worldwide cricket as that’s the bedrock of the ladies’s recreation.”

The WPL is about to turn out to be a major a part of the sport’s calendar.

It’s too early to say whether or not the WPL “turns into the dominant type of the sport, but when it does, then will probably be stunning,” Chadwick mentioned.

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