A humdinger for women

The Women’s Premier League is the best thing to have happened to legions of fans

March 05, 2023 12:41 am | Updated 12:41 am IST

Smriti Mandhana, top buy in the WPL auction.

Smriti Mandhana, top buy in the WPL auction. | Photo Credit: AFP

“Yatra Pratibha Avsara Prapnotihi” — the inscription on the IPL trophy, which roughly translates to “Where talent meets opportunity”, has never been more apt for women’s cricket than now. Humongous talent, the kind that draws thousands of fans to the stadium, has now been presented with the biggest opportunity to showcase itself.

Every single girl who has watched the IPL has wondered if a women’s version of the tournament exists. Every single girl who has followed women’s cricket has dreamed of having a WPL. Today, the dream is a reality, witnessed by women’s cricket followers with tears in their eyes.

It’s high time the calls for a WPL were answered. The league proves to be the biggest platform where the youth of the country are provided with the opportunity to rub shoulders with players who have gone down record books. It will be a fascinating experience to have a Shweta Sehrawat (U-19 World Cup winner in 2023) share the dressing room with Alyssa Healy (World Cup winner and player of the World Cup, 2022). More than anything, the WPL will be massive for domestic players to raise themselves to the international calibre as well as educate themselves in handling pressure. One of the main reasons that India lost the 2017 World Cup when they were at a dominant stage — just 37 runs needed off 43 balls — by losing seven wickets for 28 runs was because they crumbled under pressure. With adequate exposure and with the increased eyes on the game that the WPL is sure to bring, these faults can be corrected.

Bold moves

In the auction, Royal Challengers Bangalore went hard and bold at the key players, as it seems to be their strategy in cricket, on the field and off it. The ₹3.4 crore for Smriti Mandhana was expected for a player of her skill, though the RCB did bleed money to acquire other heavyweights in the form of Richa Ghosh (₹1.9 crore), Renuka Singh (₹1.5 crore) and Ellyse Perry (₹1.7 crore). They, however, managed to compensate for it by acquiring Sophie Devine — the player to hit the fastest century off just 36 balls — at the meagre base price of ₹50 lakh. Other steals the RCB managed to pull off was Megan Schutt, World Cup winner, and Dane van Niekerk, former South African World Cup captain, at their base prices of just ₹40 lakh and ₹30 lakh, respectively.

Delhi seemed to have made the most prudent buys as they have a balanced team of international stalwarts as well as exciting Indian domestic talent. UP Warriorz have also come in with a clutch of their picks — Deepti Sharma, the Indian trailblazing all-rounder, Shabnim Ismail, one of the best swingers of the new ball who never fails to pick wickets, and Sophie Ecclestone, the current world number one T20 bowler being some of the highlights.

Gujarat Giants did well to acquire Sophia Dunkley and Sneh Rana for ₹60 lakh and ₹75 lakh, respectively. Dunkley, the youngster from England, is a sharp pick because of her match-winning abilities. A crafty player she is, and what stands out the most is her ability to steer the team to victory, come what may. She has proved time and again to be a fighter in the truest sense of the word for both England and her Hundred team, Southern Brave. Sneh Rana, blazing with grit and determination, which was evident in her unbeaten 80 in the Bristol Test and her vital 30 from 27 in the historic win against Australia, breaking their 26-match winning streak, is another fantastic asset to the team. She will be resolute to make her third comeback and prove the Indian selectors wrong when they dropped her seemingly out of nowhere for the Australian tour of India, 2022. These two players will be fundamental to Gujarat Giants plans, purely because of their never-say-die attitude. It’s always good to have great players in the squad, but it pays off more to have great fighters.

Big misses

The biggest misses of the WPL auction must be Chamari Athapaththu and Alana King going unsold. Athapaththu, the Sri Lankan captain who smashed 178 not out against the mighty Aussies in the 2017 World Cup as well as led the Supernovas to many wins in the T20 challenge, going unsold is a bitter pill to swallow. The franchises seem to have missed a trick especially if the pitches prove to be spin-heavy as Alana King, the exciting Aussie who has consistently troubled batters with her leg spin and bowlers with her powerful pinch hitting, goes unsold twice, both in the auction and the accelerated auction. Another miss is Danni Wyatt, an explosive opener who never fails to perform in Indian conditions (average of 30 with a strike rate of 140).

The ₹12-crore purse limit with just five teams hit the domestic players the hardest, with many aspiring talents missing out, though other young talents are equally rewarded. With the addition of a sixth team in the coming years, players like Suzie Bates, Laura Wolvaardt as well as Archana Devi will find a spot.


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