Editor’s Pick: Is it the right time to introduce Women’s IPL?

After the resounding success of Women’s Big Bash League and Kia Super League, BCCI needs to have a similar competition for Indian players.

Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, and Smriti Mandhana are all set to lead teams in the Women’s T-20 Challenge in Sharjah this week. BCCI decided to move this tournament to the UAE due to the coronavirus situation in India. This is the second season of WT20, but it remains a small tournament.

At present, the Indian Premier League is one of the most popular cricket tournaments in the world. Considering the significant growth of women’s cricket across the globe, BCCI also needs to have an independent IPL for women. WT20 Challenge looks more like a token exhibition series with only four games in the tournament.

Over the years, IPL has developed into a bridge between the domestic circuit and the limited-overs international team. The league has helped in unearthing some of the gems hidden in different parts of the country. It can act as a similar bridge for the women’s national team. The Women’s IPL will help in boosting the popularity of the game and will help younger girls to take it up as a career.

Australia and England already have their T20 leagues. Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and Kia Super League (KSL) have enjoyed astounding success. It is not a huge surprise that Australia and England are the two strongest teams in women’s cricket. The talent pool is very well harnessed in these two countries, and the two T20 leagues give them a platform to flourish.

Indian players have also taken part in the WBBL and KSL. Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, and Veda Krishnamurthy had successful stints in WBBL. Kaur and Mandhana were a part of KSL as well. In the era of T20, Kaur and Mandhana have become the pillar of the Indian team after getting much-needed experience in foreign leagues.

Looking at the growth of these players, there is a strong case for giving exposure to young Indian players in a dressing room where there are many international players. Along with improving the technical aspect of the game, players also become mentally strong by consistently playing in pressure situations.

Having said that, India still struggles to attract viewers on the ground for women’s cricket. The attendance was just a handful in a city like Mumbai during the ODI between India and England in 2019. If this happens in the Women’s IPL, the franchises will surely face financial struggles.

Lack of fans in the stadium, poor viewership are serious hurdles for WIPL to be a success in India. Since the players in the domestic circuit are developing at a slower pace, the quality of games is unlikely to be very good. After a couple of seasons, this process can be sped up and there will be much more quality in domestic cricket.

Less viewership will affect BCCI and franchise owners. Sponsors might be reluctant too, but the WT20 challenge did bag a title sponsorship deal with Reliance Jio. Once the tournament starts running smoothly and there is an ample amount of entertainment value in games, the financial gains will also increase.

England and Australia have moved forward in the women’s game. They have been building world-class sides through a strong domestic circuit and T-20. It is time for BCCI to step in and make similar progress in the Indian cricket scene for Women. The WIPL will take some time to become a hit, but long-term gains are huge for Indian cricket.

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