There were some early jitters, a bit of initial hesitation in picking rookie talents and even a few hasty decisions. But in the end, the five franchises went for the tried and tested formula as they picked the teams for the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL).
As the auction got underway at the Jio World Convention Centre on Monday afternoon, Smriti Mandhana - the first player to go under the hammer - attracted an intense bidding war between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, with the latter eventually roping her in for a whopping Rs 3.4 crore. That not only made Mandhana the most expensive pick at the auction, but also gave Royal Challengers Bangalore an option to look at the India international as its potential captain.
And Mandhana’s pick set the tone for the auction as over the next seven hours, Ashleigh Ashleigh Gardner became the biggest overseas buy at Rs 3.2 crore, while Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues were the other two expensive Indian buys. While UP Warriorz went all out to get ‘home girl’ Deepti for Rs 2.6 crore, Delhi Capitals roped in Jemimah for Rs 2.2 crore, besides bagging Australia’s legendary captain Meg Lanning for a relatively lower price - at Rs 1.1 crore. Delhi also bolstered its batting department by picking up India’s U-19 World Cup-winning captain Shafali Verma at Rs 2 crore.
While UP Warriorz MD Rajesh Sharma said that they will decide on a prospective captain at a later stage, Delhi Capitals’ owner Parth Jindal told Sportstar that with Lanning, Shafali and Jemimah around, it has enough options in the leadership role.
However, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur was roped in by Mumbai Indians at a relatively lesser price of Rs 1.8 crore, while some of the young India internationals got a better deal. Pooja Vastrakar went to Mumbai Indians for Rs 1.9 crore, while Renuka Singh Thakur and Yastika Bhatia earned Rs 1.5 crore respectively.
Of highs and lows
While UP Warriorz made a few smart buys by roping in Sophie Ecclestone, Tahlia McGrath, Shabnam Ismail early on, Gujarat Giants - the franchise owned by the Adani Group - started slowly and initially eyed only overseas players, before upping their ante and get the house in order. “Some have gone for higher bids, some lower than expected. That’s what auction is about. You are pretty much betting and guessing,” Mithali Raj, the mentor of the Gujarat outfit, said.
While top three biggest overseas buys - Ashleigh Gardner, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Beth Mooney - had a field day, surprisingly, Suzie Bates, Tazmin Brits, Laura Wolvaardt, Tammy Beaumont, Sune Luus and Danni Wyatt were some of the big names, who went unsold. Only one player from the associate nation - Tara Norris of USA - was picked up.
U-19 players have a field day
After initially being apprehensive about the India U-19 players, franchises ended up picking nine of them - including Richa and Shafali - in their roster. Delhi Capitals got Titas Sadhu on board for Rs 25 lakh, while Shweta Sehrawat went to the UP franchise for 40 lakh. But as the evening progressed and the purse dried up, the franchises - especially Mumbai Indians - made some last-minute U-19 picks. “This time, there was not much time. But hopefully, next time onwards, there will be more time and the teams will be able to scout more local, rookie talents and that will be a big thing for the youngsters,” former India captain and Mumbai Indians’ mentor Jhulan Goswami said.
The franchises accepted the fact that they had to get everything in a real short time. “It’s extremely rushed. Everything happened very fast. Teams will assemble quickly and the matches are also nearly upon us in two weeks time. It’s new for me personally,” Jindal said.
“I am a follower of women’s cricket, but apart from Indian players and a couple of legendary players from other teams, I did not know many names. It’s as competitive, as tricky and some skill sets are different from the men’s league. You see more all-rounders here. I felt like a standard X student trying to learn the entire year’s syllabus in the last nine days. It’s the same for everyone…”
Talent pool and retention policy
The BCCI secretary Jay Shah also admitted that at one stage, it was difficult to imagine that there would be such a strong talent pool. But in the end, they were happy with the response.
“A few weeks ago, we became U-19 champions, we were also confused about how we will get into a 100-player pool. But, one of the most important aspects of the auction was that we got appropriate players and teams were also satisfied. That’s the biggest thing. Earlier, people were asking how you’d get a pool of players, so this auction is the answer to your question,” Shah said.
The BCCI also plans to finalise the retention policy for the WPL in due course as the teams will have the option of signing the current set of players for three years. “The women’s FTP is not finalised yet. We are having 22 matches for now. The moment ICC finalises the FTP, we will decide on the future course of action. The current squads will be for the first three years, then it will be decided,” Shah said.
The inaugural edition of the tournament will be held in Mumbai between March 4 and 26.
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