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Women's Cricket

'Free tickets for just women is bad optics for the WPL'

While the logic behind having free entry for women into stadiums is understandable, here's why the WPL cannot afford to package itself solely as a women-first product:

Free tickets for just women is bad optics for the WPL

The WPL begins on March 4. Women will be given free entry to the stadiums for the 23-day league. (BCCI)


Sayan Chatterjee

Updated: 2 March 2023 2:20 PM GMT

The Women’s Premier League is here! It is what the players had been asking for, and in terms of the development of our national team, it is the next logical step.

There’s also no reason why it shouldn’t be a success. Women’s cricket in India has now reached a stage where we have a pool of about 25-30 players who have the talent to compete for a senior spot, but the drop-off after that is just too big.

That is where the WPL comes in, to fill that gap.

The likes of Shweta Sehrawat, the highest run-getter at the recent U19 T20 World Cup, will get the opportunity to work alongside the best in the world and understand the demands of top-level cricket.

Even for players who were not picked up in the auction, the knowledge that there is now a system in place through which franchises will be keeping an eye on their performances will be a huge motivation.

Fans have turned up in large numbers in India’s recent matches, and sponsors have pumped in their money to make the WPL the most expensive women's cricket league in the world — It is genuinely a win-win, or it should be! This is because a lot depends on how the league is marketed.

The BCCI has announced that tickets for the matches will be free for all women, while tickets for men will be priced between Rs 100-400. This has been done so that more women, especially younger girls, are encouraged to attend matches. Perfectly understandable, but I submit that this isn’t the best idea in our cultural landscape.

Firstly, most of us do not understand ‘privilege’. The average upper-middle-class Indian doesn’t understand the privilege of being able to spend three months without stepping out at all during the lockdown. In the same way, the average Indian guy also doesn’t understand the advantages that boys have while growing up when it comes to playing a sport, any sport.

So, their first reaction to this will most likely be outrage.

Because even though all of us have seen this very old social media forward, we don’t understand it.

Back in 2011, during a function at Wankhede, former India captain Diana Edulji walked up to congratulate new BCCI president N Srinivasan hoping women’s cricket would grow under his leadership.

Srinivasan said to her, 'If I had my way, I wouldn't let women's cricket happen. Women have no business playing cricket. We are only doing this because it is an ICC rule.'

That is the mentality we are fighting against, and it is still very prevalent all around us.

Secondly, one of the primary goals of the Women’s Premier League should be to bring more men into stadiums to watch women play - to normalise it and also because most of the decisions in every cross-section of our society are still unfortunately taken by men.

The BCCI doesn't plan to generate a substantial percentage of revenue through ticket sales anyway, so might as well make it free for everyone!

Cricket is huge in India. And there is no reason why our women’s team can’t get the same amount of love and adulation that their male counterparts get. But the WPL cannot package itself solely as a women-first product, it just cannot afford to!

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