Women’s Day: WPL boosting women’s cricket in India

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | March 08, 2024 IST

WPL Captains

New Delhi, March 8: For a multitude of reasons, 2023 can be considered a pivotal year for women's cricket in India. Under the captaincy of Shafali Verma, India secured a remarkable achievement by winning the inaugural Women's U19 World Cup in South Africa.

Later in the year, the senior women’s team won a historic gold medal in T20 debut of the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. It then played Tests at home after a gap of 11 years with back-to-back wins over England and Australia. Not to forget, the BCCI announced match-fee parity for the men’s and women’s international players.

But if there’s one moment which takes the top spot, it is the debut of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) at Navi Mumbai on March 4. The fulfilment of a long-standing cherished desire shared by many cricketers and followers of women's cricket had finally become a reality, garnering widespread attention and eyeballs from all quarters.

The matches in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai during WPL 2023 were filled with a capacity crowd, underscoring the overwhelming support for women's cricket in India. This year’s WPL has seen the BCCI take the tournament into two new venues – Bengaluru and New Delhi, with 11 games hosted by each venue.

Unlike the previous year, where female spectators were granted free entry, tickets are now mandatory to watch any match at the venues. The first half saw matches in Bengaluru getting great footfall for all the games it hosted, reinforcing the fact that there’s a strong audience for WPL.

The M Chinnaswamy Stadium was packed to the brim when the games featured the Royal Challengers Bangalore, with the home crowd supporting Smriti Mandhana & Co the way they would do for the men’s team in the IPL.

"It’s like a dream come true, to see where the game is today. This is where the game should be and it should have always be here. To see the game taking its rightful place, it’s a really nice feeling.

"So many of my friends from Chennai and Hyderabad came to watch matches in Bengaluru and after I finished my work, I went to the WPL games to catch up with them and has been a great feeling to meet former cricketers while watching the games in the stadium,” recalled Mamatha Maben, the former India captain, to IANS.

Though Delhi has been a little slow in catching the vibe and frenzy associated with the WPL, there’s a school of thought that it will come into its own during the weekends. Besides the bustling crowd, the WPL has played a crucial role in giving domestic players the opportunity to mingle with top cricketers in the world.

"WPL has changed not just my life, but it has changed so many lives of domestic players. It is going to change many more lives and it put a thought in every body’s head that you can also dream and can play alongside an Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine or Smriti Mandhana.

"A year ago, I never thought that I can share a dressing room with those three. Everybody can dream now and can achieve their dreams," said Asha Sobhana, the RCB leg-spinner who became the first Indian bowler to pick a five-wicket haul in the WPL, in a virtual interaction.

Shweta Sehrawat, a top scorer in U19 Women's T20 World Cup, became a more effective communicator by overcoming shyness through WPL.

"I wasn’t opening up about talks around the game and I learnt from WPL 2023 that how to initiate that communication, put forward your thoughts and express yourself in such a way that you get the solution you are looking for. I got a lot of help in terms of communication and in cricketing terms, I learnt a lot of new things from the players as well as Jon (Lewis, head coach) sir and Ashley (Noffke, bowling coach),” she recalled in a conversation with IANS ahead of WPL 2024.

What has also been fascinating is the franchises' decision to organize off-season camps following the conclusion of WPL 2023. UP Warriorz held one from July 31 to August 10, 2023, to enhance the skills of its Indian players in Bengaluru.

Delhi Capitals also had an off-season camp for the Indian players in the women’s team in August 2023, while RCB also invested in the off-season camps for its women cricketers, focusing specially on fitness and conditioning.

"Over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time in camps. For at least three-four days a month, we would congregate for a camp and over the summer, we had a continuous 50-day camp which was specifically for fitness. It helped me get the best out of my bowling in terms of my run-up, alignment, and efficacy with the ball. It’s not easy to organise 50-60 days of camp, and I am grateful to the franchise for the benefits it gave me," stated Asha.

With Delhi Capitals and UP Warriorz set to face-off at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on International Women’s Day on Friday, one can be pleased with the tournament’s impact in various facets, both on and off the field, while showcasing the depth of women’s cricket in India.

As time goes by, WPL will be cherished for its significant contribution to the coming of age of women's cricket in India, propelling the sport to new heights and speeding up its growth in the country. (IANS)

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