On Saturday, India finished on top of Group B at the Women’s World Twenty20 after easing past Australia by 48 runs in their last group game in Guyana. Australia are a tough nut to crack, but the fact that India’s victory came by 48 runs proves their sheer dominance in the tournament. They have won all their group games, and will be looking to revive their ODI World Cup reputation when they face off England in the semi-finals.
The matches have been telecasted live. The paparazzi is covering the event ball by ball. Social media is proud of the girls. There has been noise, a lot of noise. And of course, there have been demands for a women’s IPL, irrespective of India winning the cup or not.
No one in the BCCI believed in the concept of having a T20 league prior to the 2007 WT20, in which India emerged victorious. But it now boasts of eleven successful years of the Indian Premier League. The tournament caught the fancy of the fans for the entertainment associated with the format.
However, a major reason behind the success of the IPL was a strong domestic as well as grassroots structure for men’s cricket in India. The number of cricket academies, clubs and tournaments for the boys in India are innumerable. Then, there are tournaments like the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy, where the domestic guys get to sharpen their white-ball skills. Add to that, there are several other T20 tournaments at state levels. The Mumbai T20 league, the Karnataka Premier League, the Tamil Nadu Premier League and so on.
There was thus no dearth of skilled players for the IPL and the tournament was an instant crowd puller.
Women’s IPL will lack abundance of talent
Team India, even without a T20I culture for women in the country, are performing extremely well in the Windies. But the big question remains — is there sufficient talent in domestic cricket to ensure the quality of the women’s IPL is not degraded?
The tournament cannot be started with only 15 to 20 women. For a women’s IPL to be created, a minimum of four to five teams are a must, which means there is a need for at least 30 Indian players roughly. A country cannot start its own league if 80% of the participants are from other countries. Primary purpose of the women’s IPL will be to mould the domestic players for international cricket, but without any T20I culture at the grassroots level, that is not even remotely possible.
Besides, lack of talented players in the IPL will lead to one-sided and uninteresting games, and that will not be commercially viable. There are not enough players who can attract crowd in the stadiums and viewership on the television.
Former Indian captain and COA member Diana Edulji had also elaborated on the importance of a grassroots structure in India. In an interview with CNN-News18, Edulji said, “You look at what Rahul Dravid is doing, he is creating a supply chain for the senior team. Women’s cricket also needs the same, we need strong coaching and competitive tournaments at U-14 and U-16 levels,” she said.
India is far behind in the development of women’s cricket if compared to England and Australia. The women’s Big Bash League in Australia is successful because there is an abundance of talent in domestic cricket which ensures that the franchise-based tournament is competitive.
According to reports, Cricket Australia has invested three million dollars in women’s cricket over the last two years. A lot of clubs and tournaments at the grassroots level were started in 2016.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is simple – BCCI needs to invest money at the grassroots level. The world’s richest board needs to let its purse loose and offer lucrative contracts to the players. New clubs and tournaments should be introduced. Experienced coaches should be hired. All of this can be possible if only the right initiatives are taken.
Also, cricket should be encouraged in schools. Girls should be given equal participation in school matches as the boys.
Among other baby steps, it is very important to completely eradicate sports-based gender inequalities in India’s relatively patriarchal society.
Women’s IPL is definitely a possibility, but you don’t want to cringe about its lack of extravaganza – which is quintessential to a T20 franchise cricket tournament.