The value of the Women’s Premier League in cricket’s ecosystem cannot be overstated. For old warhorses, it is an arena for redemption. For young Indian players, it is a chance to rub shoulders with the best and surge ahead in their careers.
Australia’s Ellyse Perry calls it the “next frontier” in women’s cricket.
“I think it was always going to be the next frontier in women’s cricket, and it’s impossible to match the scale of the IPL anywhere else around the world…All of us feel so fortunate to be a part of such an event. I’ve played for a long time now and then to be here in India for this tournament, knowing there will be huge crowds... It’s just amazing. “There’s no limit to what this competition can do for women’s cricket in India. Just look at the level at which they are playing now…The players are very skilful and just need the opportunity now to go out and compete, get experience, and play in front of big crowds and on a big stage. So from that perspective, this time, it provides that platform,” says Perry.
WATCH - Ellyse Perry: WPL 2023 will make India a force to reckon with in international cricket
One of Perry’s team-mates at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) is relishing the chance to step on that platform. Just out of her teens, Shreyanka Patil does not have the inhibitions a cricketer of her age would have. Two matches into her first big league game, and she is already getting noticed. This wasn’t the case when she was excelling in the domestic circuit. “My aim even when I’m practising in the nets is to get the batter out, I especially love getting the big names like Ellyse Perry and Smriti Mandhana out, it’s so much fun,” she says.
Thirty-year-old Asha Shobhana Joy, too, went through the grind in the domestic circuit, waiting for a long time for women’s cricket to reach such a stage as today. She has tears rolling down her cheeks as she tries to state what it means for her to be recognised via the WPL. Perhaps understandably, for it has been a long wait. “I’ve been playing cricket for 16 years, picked so many wickets but still I’m only getting this recognition now, for so long nobody knew who I was. I can’t begin to explain how happy I am. This tournament will change so much for so many of us.”
Joy made her debut for Kerala in domestic cricket at just 14. Success for her didn’t come as early as it did for Ellyse or even Shreyanka. “I went on to play for the most competitive side in domestic cricket which was Railways. I don’t think many people know, but it takes so much work to make it to the good domestic teams. Our trials last for days.”
Joy is just one of hundreds of Indian women who aspired to make it as big as their male counterparts, who prospered after the advent of the IPL in 2008. It helped them match the standards of international cricket, just as accelerator programmes in the business world provide mentorship and funding to enable an entrepreneur to take a big leap. The IPL gave the likes of Hardik Pandya the right mentorship and exposure to turn into a match winner. That, in turn, helped the Indian men’s team.
Although it is too early make a judgment, Shreyanka’s performances as an all-rounder so far in the WPL for RCB augur well for her and the Indian women’s team’s future. “The young domestic talent in the team and right across the competition is just amazing. And those girls will forge their path in a really exciting time for women’s cricket.. and it’s going to mean that the Indian team on the world stage is going to be an amazing force to be reckoned with in years to come as well,” quips Ellyse.
All in all, the WPL, by lifting the standards of women’s cricket and making participants household stars, is an exciting new addition in the calendar of Indian cricket. Its therapeutic impacts will be felt by women cricketers all over the world.
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