Women’s IPL is coming, promises to be a game-changer

The IPL heralded a new era in the cricketing world, and now a women’s version of the marquee tournament is set to become a reality in early 2023. The BCCI move comes months after its then president, Sourav Ganguly had hinted at the start of women’s IPL next year., writes Sunny Sharma

 Start of first edition of the Women’s IPL will have as many as five teams and is set to happen in March 2023 before the start of the men’s version. According to a BCCI note, the tournament shall consist of 20 league games with teams playing each other twice. The members of the IPL Governing Council include Brijesh Patel, Chairman, Jay Shah, Honorary Secretary, BCCI, Member, Arun Singh Dhumal, Honorary Treasurer, BCCI, Member, M Khairul Jamal Majumdar, Member, Pragyan Ojha, Member (ICA representative) and CM Sane, CAG Nominee, Member.

As per the BCCI note, the table toppers enter the final directly, while the second and third-place sides will face off in the Eliminator. There will be a maximum of five overseas cricketers in the playing eleven for each team.

With this, India will be following in the footsteps of the likes of Australia and UK with their own women’s T20 league. The idea was first broached in 2017 and now is all set to translate into a reality. It was much needed and will be good for the game. Many of our players are already playing in foreign leagues and now we shall see players from outside India playing in India in a cash-rich T20 league.

The Indian Premier League, a men’s T20 franchise cricket league, was founded by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 2007. On 13 September 2007, in the wake of India’s victory at the 2007 T20 World Cup, the BCCI announced a franchise-based competition called Indian Premier League. The first season started in 2008. The league’s format was similar to that of the Premier League of England and the NBA of the United States

Now the IPL has become the most-attended cricket league in the world. The brand value of the IPL in 2019 was Rs 47,500 crore (US$5.9 billion).

According to the BCCI, the 2015 IPL season contributed Rs 1,150 crore (US$140 million) to the GDP of the Indian economy. The 2020 IPL season set a massive viewership record with 31.57 million average impressions and with an overall consumption increase of 23 per cent from the 2019 season. So far there have been 15 seasons of the IPL tournament. The current IPL title holder franchise is Gujarat Titans, who won the 2022 season of IPL.

Experts say that the women’s IPL can replicate the success of the men’s IPL tournament. The dates and schedule are yet to be announced but by next year, we shall be seeing two IPLs back to back. Women’s cricket has come forward by leaps and bounds in the last five years or so and a Women’s IPL is that much-needed boost for our Women in Blue. The last season of the IPL offered a total prize money of Rs 60 crore with the winning team netting Rs 20 crore The first and second runners up received Rs 12.5 crore and Rs 8.75 crore respectively. The IPL rules mandate that half of the prize money must be distributed among the players.

What BCCI note says

“To have a well balance of domestic & international players and to have competitive teams, it has been tentatively decided to have five teams for WIPL. Each team can comprise maximum of eighteen players where no team can have more than six overseas players. Further, no more than five overseas players – four from Full Members of the ICC and one from the Associate Members of the ICC – can be part of the playing XI of each team,” read the BCCI note.

“Like IPL, it will be a challenge to play in home-away format in WIPL, as with five to six teams it is not possible to have a match every day. It is suggested that tournaments can be played in caravan style where after finishing ten matches at one venue next ten matches to be played at the next venue,” the note added.

“Therefore, ten matches each to be played across two venues in 2023 WIPL season, ten each in the next two venues in 2024 season and for 2025 season ten matches in remaining one venue and remaining ten in one of the venues from 2023 season. As far as the sale of teams are concerned, it may take place zone wise with the board shortlisting two cities for each zone: Dharamsala/Jammu (North zone), Pune/Rajkot (West), Indore/Nagpur/Raipur (Central), Ranchi/Cuttack (East), Kochi/Vizag (South) and Guwahati (North-East). Alternatively, teams in WIPL can be sold and matches may take place at venues that currently host IPL matches,” the note went on to add.

Anjum Chopra’s take

Former India women’s team captain Anjum Chopra quips, “In the initial few seasons, there could be a trend of foreigners taking the lead in the coaching setup, a template that IPL has followed over the years. BCCI has a very structured coaching programme. With the women’s IPL approaching, there might be a similarity initially in leaning back on home coaching talent playing second fiddle to foreign coaches, but there is no surety. It will become crucial for Indian women coaches to put their hands up and be counted in”.

Anjum Chopra says, “The tournament will improve the quality of competition in women’s cricket. March 2023 will see the women take centre stage prior to the already established world-class product that is the men’s Indian Premier League. While it will enhance the women’s game with more competitive cricket, it will be in complete contrast to the men’s game, which has had an overload of game time. But the women’s game is in the progression stage and might not take a very long time to pick up speed but yes, any compromise in the basics of the game might pose a challenge”.