Women’s cricket got unprecedented coverage in India during the recently concluded World Cup where the team finished as runners-up. There was live telecast, produced match analysis on TV, front page stories in newspapers and top trends on social media – all of it largely for the first time. But that was just the first step, there is still a long way to go for the women’s game to grow in the country.
After the final, captain Mithali Raj spoke about having a tournament like the Indian Premier League for women, on the likes of the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. “If you ask me they should have IPL because now is the right time to create that base. Women’s cricket is everywhere and they have put up a much better standard than the last World Cup,” Raj said after the final.
This was in context of Harmanpreet Kaur’s scintillating 171 not out in the semifinal against Australia. “The WBBL has given exposure to the two girls who have played [Smriti Mandhana and Kaur]. If more girls participate in such leagues, it will give them experience and help them to improve their own game,” Raj added.
Having played for Sydney Thunder in the WBBL – scoring 296 runs at an average of 59.20 in 12 matches – Harmanpreet was more comfortable against the Southern Stars at the World Cup. Smriti Mandhana also took part in the WBBL, but her tourney was cut short by a horrific knee injury. But the experience gained in these leagues is sure to benefit Indian cricketers in the future. Already, Haramanpreet is the first Indian to be signed up for the Kia Super League, England’s domestic T20 tournament. She will play for Surrey Stars in the upcoming season starting in August 2017.
However, a women’s IPL may just remain a pipe dream, even if the Board of Control for Cricket in India wants to set up one. According to a report in CricketNext, a senior BCCI official said that a women’s IPL will not be financially viable given the current turmoil in administration with the Lodha Committee-appointed Committee of Administrators.
“There is no denying the fact that the women cricketers have made us proud... But to think of a women’s IPL would be a little far-fetched as it is not financially feasible at present. Also, the current unrest within the BCCI as the board is trying its best to implement the proposals of the Lodha panel at the earliest means that the women’s IPL needs to wait at present,” a BCCI source was quoted as saying by CricketNext.
Speaking about the other aspect of managing a league, another official said that a women’s cricket league may not find broadcasters, like the now cancelled Champions League Twenty20. Not many women’s cricket matches other than global tournaments are telecasted in India. In fact, not all of India’s matches at the World Cup were televised on Star Sports either, with some being available only online on Hotstar.
“Women’s cricket has got good coverage this time round. But there needs to be more international and domestic games that need to be telecast before going for something revolutionary like having a T20 league. One needs to realise that the CLT20 couldn’t be sustained after some time as there weren’t enough viewers keen to watch the top T20 domestic teams from across the globe play each other,” the official was quoted as saying.
The source also cited the lack of crowds at domestic cricket such as the Ranji Trophy as a counterpoint to not investing in a women’s league.
However, the BCCI official insisted that they plan to not only felicitate the team but also improve the conditions of and promote women’s cricket in India after the strong World Cup performance.
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