Women’s cricket joins golden league

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Women’s Premier League. It is a reality. After years of anticipation and expectation, especially since the 2017 Women’s World Cup, the BCCI’s women’s franchise-based T20 tournament is finally here. And it will be called the Women’s Premier League (WPL), BCCI secretary Jay Shah announced on Wednesday.And it did not come cheap either. It was beyond expectations as the Indian cricket board fetched a massive Rs 4669.99 crore for the five franchises of the tournament.

The five teams will be based out of Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Lucknow in the inaugural edition of the WPL, which is set to be held in March before the 16th edition of the men’s Indian Premier League.

Among the existing franchises, Mumbai Indians (Rs 912.99 crore), Delhi Capitals (Rs 810 crore) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (Rs 901 crore) managed to hold on to their respective cities. Having missed the opportunity to win a men’s franchise last year, the Adani Group put up the highest bid of Rs 1289 crore to secure the Ahmedabad-based team, while Capri Global bought the Lucknow team for Rs 757 crore.
While Chennai Super Kings and the newest two franchises did not place a bid, Kolkata Knight Riders had apparently bid Rs 666 crore and Rajasthan Royals placed Rs 180 crore. Many, including those in the fraternity, were not expecting such high valuations from the teams. The difference in bids from some of the franchises tells the story.

Make no mistake, this is truly a historic day for women’s cricket as a market product. The highest bid in this closed auction is over Rs 842 crore more than that of the inaugural edition of the IPL back in 2008 when Mumbai Indians paid Rs 447.6 crore to win the franchise they own now.Any doubts on the salability of the league even the BCCI might have had was shattered when the media rights for the first five years of the tournament went for Rs 951 crore. And now, before even the players are picked and the teams were formed, the richest cricketing body has just become Rs 5,650.99 crore richer.

“This marks the beginning of a revolution in women’s cricket and paves the way for a transformative journey ahead not only for our women cricketers but for the entire sports fraternity. The WPL would bring necessary reforms in women’s cricket and would ensure an all-encompassing ecosystem that benefits each and every stakeholder,” Shah said in a tweet.

While the teams are expected to pay the franchise fee and take a few years before breaking even, they will be making Rs 25 crore per year from the media rights deal as they have entered into an 80:20 revenue sharing agreement with the Indian board for the first five years. Although it is a five-team 20-match tournament this year, the league is likely to expand with more teams and matches after the first three years. And the beast that has been sleeping is only going to get bigger.

The Indian cricket board might have taken their time to get the women’s version of the league going, but a lot of good things have happened since the start of this year. Media rights. Check. Franchise announcement. Check. Next stop is the player auction which is expected to happen in the first week of February. And the tournament begins in the first week of March.Fasten your seat belts. Mark your calendars, brace yourself to get ready for a rollercoaster ride, for the WPL is here. And by the looks of it, it is here to stay.

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