In a landmark moment for women’s cricket in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) formally announced five teams for the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) on Wednesday.
The Adani Group made the biggest bid for the team from Ahmedabad, splurging Rs 1289 crore.
The four others with the biggest bids are Indiawin Sports Private Limited (the Reliance group subsidiary), Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Capitals and Capri Global.
RCB chairman Prathmesh Mishra said that the franchise stayed away from bidding for teams at the men’s ILT20 and SA20 leagues to focus on the WPL. “We held back all our investments in overseas teams to own a team that aligns with this philosophy and core value, and it gives us immense pleasure to have marked this accomplishment positively,” Mishra said.
“The Indian women’s cricket team has been doing exceptionally well – and a cricket league for women is a significant step in creating more opportunities for women through sports,” said Pranav Adani, the Director of Adani Enterprises, which acquired the Ahmedabad franchise with a highest bid.
The five teams will be from Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Lucknow, though the inaugural edition of the tournament is expected to begin in Maharashtra in the first week of March.
The BCCI has raked in over Rs 4669.99 crore, which it will earn over a period of 10 years.
‘Red-letter day for women’s cricket’
Though 17 entities - including seven IPL franchises - had submitted the technical bids, 16 turned up for the final bid and three of the existing franchises - Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals - managed to successfully bid.
“It is another red-letter day for women’s cricket after successful media rights and the pay parity between men and women cricketers,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said.
“This is the highest-valued cricket league in the world. The first is the IPL and the second is WPL…”
Last week, Viacom 18 bagged the media rights for the inaugural five-year cycle, with a winning bid of Rs 951 crore, which translates to a value of Rs 7.09 crore per match for the 2023-27 period.
“We have seen the women’s cricket team perform exceedingly well at the Commonwealth Games and Asia Cup, and after the pay-parity policy, we have done everything to ensure that women’s cricket flourishes in the country,” IPL Governing Council chairman Arun Dhumal said.
While the three existing IPL franchises pulled it off, franchises like Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad did participate, but their bids, valued between Rs 180 crore and Rs 666 crore - were lower than the top five.
“The responsibility lies on us to ensure that the WPL turns out to be on a par with the men’s IPL in the time to come. We take it as a challenge,” Dhumal said.
Rajasthan Royals in a statement, said: “We are obviously disappointed not to have won the bid for a team in this historic inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League.
We always knew there was going to be a lot of competition given the IPL’s success in the men’s format, but still were hopeful of securing a women’s franchise to extend the Royals Family and hope there will be an opportunity to do so in the future.”
The schedule and auction
Though the tournament is expected to begin around March 4-24, Dhumal said that discussions are on regarding the venues.
“It’s a work in progress. We will finalise the schedule and dates and see what makes more sense. The Women’s T20 World Cup will be on and we don’t have much of a window, but whatever window will be available, we have to look at the logistical challenges,” the IPL Governing Council chairman said.
The player auctions are expected to be held in the first week of February, between the 5th and the 9th. However, a final date is yet to be confirmed.
To begin with, the tournament will have 22 matches featuring five teams and every team will be able to field five overseas players, with one from associate nations.
Nita Ambani was elated to get a team in the WPL.
“India’s women cricketers have always made the nation proud in the global sporting arena – be it the World Cup, Asian Cup or the recent Commonwealth Games.
This new Women’s League will put global spotlight on the talent, power, and potential of our girls. I’m sure our Women’s MI team will take the Mumbai Indians brand of fearless and entertaining cricket to a new level altogether,” Ambani said.
The Adani group had missed out on buying a team in the men’s IPL in 2021, while Capri had also failed to make a successful attempt around that time - paving the way for Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans.
But finally, both the corporate bigwigs were able to enter the Indian cricket pitch.
The BCCI informally informed the franchises that it is looking at February 6 as the date for the auction. However, a few of the outlets have asked for a bit of time and requested the Board to push it back at least by a week. A decision is expected in a couple of days.