WPL 2024: Bengaluru welcomes new Women’s Premier League season with restrained eagerness

Amidst the chatter, snippets of conversation ahead of WPL 2024 reveal a mixed sentiment among attendees.

Published : Feb 23, 2024 16:58 IST , BENGALURU - 4 MINS READ

A Women’s Premier League hoarding inside the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru prior to the opening match on Friday.
A Women’s Premier League hoarding inside the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru prior to the opening match on Friday. | Photo Credit: MAYANK
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A Women’s Premier League hoarding inside the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru prior to the opening match on Friday. | Photo Credit: MAYANK

Amidst the anticipation swirling around the Women’s Premier League, set to kick off its new season in Bengaluru, there seems to be a low hum compared to the thunderous roar one might expect. 

Having witnessed the league’s inception and its inaugural season hosted in Mumbai, the completion of one cycle brings hope and curiosity to cricket enthusiasts in Bengaluru.

The city, renowned for its steadfast support, especially evident during matches featuring its beloved franchise, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, wears an air of restrained eagerness. As fans trickle towards M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, there’s a palpable sense of anticipation, albeit subdued compared to the one seen during other cricketing events.

Walking around the stadium’s vicinity, one notices absence of the usual paraphernalia that typically adorns sports crowds. Flags, placards, and team accessories are conspicuously missing, leaving an unexpected void in the atmosphere. The absence of jersey vendors, in particular, raises eyebrows and hints at a potential disconnect between the league and its fan base.

However, the BCCI is stirring anticipation with an opening ceremony headlined by Bollywood icon and Kolkata Knight Riders owner, Shah Rukh Khan, alongside fellow celebrities Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra, and Tiger Shroff. In a bid to captivate the local audience, it is also granting 500 complementary tickets to women for the inaugural match and slashing ticket prices to a wallet-friendly 100-200 rupees per seat.

Sandesh Gautam, Zameer Mozam and Pawan Shivaji Panchal -- fans who travelled from Bidar.
Sandesh Gautam, Zameer Mozam and Pawan Shivaji Panchal -- fans who travelled from Bidar. | Photo Credit: MAYANK
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Sandesh Gautam, Zameer Mozam and Pawan Shivaji Panchal -- fans who travelled from Bidar. | Photo Credit: MAYANK

The move, at least for now, seemed to have worked. “I’m a huge Shah Rukh Khan fan. That’s why I came here. Not that I don’t like watching women’s cricket, but I had planned to watch only RCB games. I’m glad Shah Rukh is coming, now I have one more reason to watch one extra game,” said Zameer Mozam, a fan outside the stadium. 

Sandesh Gautam, Zameer’s friend, felt the city lacked the advertising and hoardings he had seen for the IPL. “They should have placed more posters throughout the city. Usually, buses and metro trains are covered in RCB colours, but I haven’t seen anything yet,” he said. 

The third friend in the group interrupted Gautam as he believed “WPL will take its time” before grabbing the eyeballs of a larger mass.

“This is still a new tournament. It will take another two to three years before everyone knows about it. They have big hitters in the IPL who are extremely catchy. “ Yeh nawa nawa tournament hai, time ke saath IPL jaisa famous ho jayega (It’s a new tournament, it will become famous like IPL over time),” justified Pawan Shivaji Panchal.

The trio had travelled from Bidar, a Karnataka-Maharashtra border town 700 kilometres from Bengaluru, to appear for the SSC GD exam.  

However, the lack of clarity also forced Shyam Bhanoj and Mukesh Singh to return empty-handed. The duo travelled 45 minutes to the stadium, excited to spend their off day while watching Bollywood numbers alongside some quality cricket. 

“We had to buy tickets offline from the stadium during the IPL, so we figured, why not go there and buy them at the counter? We never received any information about online tickets until now. And, when we checked online, there was only one stand available for booking, which is now also sold out,” said Mukesh. 

Roughly 2000 kilometres away from their home city of Ranchi where a determined Indian men’s team is competing against England to defy its style of cricket, Hitesh Nayak and Rahul Murmu were walking around Gate 16, unsure whether they could enter the stadium four hours earlier or not. 

“I love cricket. I’m not sure what the difference is between the men’s and women’s teams. You would have seen me at the JSCA Stadium if I hadn’t been here,” said Hitesh, who considers himself a die-hard cricket fan. He stated that he will make every effort to attend each game. 

Near the stadium, Mallahai, a lone jersey vendor, awaits the surge of pre and post-match demand, his inventory dominated by the iconic blue of Virat Kohli rather than the colours of the women’s teams. 

Mallahai, a local jersey vendor near M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Mallahai, a local jersey vendor near M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: MAYANK
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Mallahai, a local jersey vendor near M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: MAYANK

Mallahai is a Bengaluru local. He claims to understand the ‘nerves’ of those present. When asked about other jersey vendors, he said, “They’ll all arrive after 6.”

“There is high demand for 18-number jerseys. What’s her name? Mandhana? But nothing is available. I only have RCB’s IPL jersey and the best-seller Virat Kohli.”  

It’s a subtle reminder of the journey that lies ahead in terms of elevating the visibility and appeal of women’s cricket, and while the promise of celebrity appearances, including Bollywood stars, might draw crowds initially, the true test lies in garnering organic, sustainable support from the local community. 

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