Founding bricks of Women's IPL being laid right before us
Although BCCI president Sourav Ganguly reckons that a women's IPL - involving seven or eight teams - is at least "four years away", with the traction the Women's T20 World Cup is getting, it might very well happen a couple of years quicker.
Slowly but surely, the Women's T20 Challenge is increasing in size and stature. It began in 2018 with a one-off game between Harmanpreet Kaur's Supernovas and Smriti Mandhana's Trailblazers at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium. Let year, in 2019, a third team Velocity, led by Mithali Raj was introduced. In a total of four league matches that followed the single round-robin format, Supernovas beat Velocity by four wickets in the final.
39 players including several top overseas stars took part in the competition with Harmanpreet Kaur walking away with the Player of the Match while Jemimah Rodrigues was named the Player of the Series.
Just like the last year, the four-team Women's T20 Challenge 2020 will be played on the sidelines of the IPL playoffs at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. It is the same venue which hosted last year's competition, with some success.
It was the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England which set the stage for a bigger and better women's franchise-based tournament. While the Women's Big Bash league was doing well, there was a need for another such tournament in the subcontinent, the cash cow of the game as it stands.
Shortly after the showpiece event, on 22 May 2018, the BCCI decided to sow the seeds of an IPL-style T20 competition for the women, which at the time in its experimental stage was just a stand-alone match. Players from India, Australia, England and New Zealand took part in the first Women’s T20 Exhibition match in Mumbai. A last-ball finish from Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas ensured that there was scope for tight competitive matches in the women's game as well, albeit not many spectators - in the ground or on TV - showed their interest.
The situation improved considerably next year with a 4-match tournament. There were more players, interesting games, and more people - 13,000-odd were at the final. The improvement was clearly visible.
With the audience having become more aware, and more importantly more interested, courtesy of the branding and marketing of the women's game and the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Poonam Yadav, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Shafali Verma bossing the world stage, their is reason for hope. Increase in overall talent pool of players has meant that the tournament has become quite feasible.
Mandhana, Deepti and Kaur have also had good outings at the Kia Super League and the WBBL and everything seems nicely set up for India to introduce the women's IPL, sooner rather than later.
"As part of its ongoing commitment to grow the women’s game, BCCI are pleased to announce the 2020 Women’s T20 Challenge," the Board said in a press release. "The tournament which started in 2018 and was a huge success, further garnered all the right eyeballs in the year to follow.
"The 2019 games, comprising three teams were played at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur during the IPL Playoff and Finals week. The tournament was played with great intensity which saw the winner of 2019 WT20 Challenge being decided over the last ball of the match.
"2020 aims to be no different and this edition will see a 4th team added to the tournament. The WT20 Challenge this year will feature some of the world’s best women cricketers and will have 7 matches played during the IPL Playoff week at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur. Like the previous editions, this year’s Women’s T20 Challenge too promises to be an exciting prospect," the BCCI release said.
The bricks of the Women's IPL, one by one, are being laid out right in front of our eyes. You can say with certainty that the Shafali Verma's, the Deepti Sharma's and the Rich Ghosh's will command not only the attention but the admiration of people in the times to comes - earlier than you might think.
And this time, it will not only be girls, starry-eyed at seeing their idols, boys - and men for that matter - will also line up in numbers for the extravaganza. Hold your breath for the women's IPL as you see it taking shape brick by brick, right in front of your eyes.
©Cricket World 2020