The inaugural Women’s Big Bash League bloomed with a few matches attracting crowds larger than those seen at Women’s World T20 finals © Cricket Australia/Getty Images
Australia Women’s captain Meg Lanning hopes the introduction of a separate Indian Premier League for women will give the sport a massive fillip even as talks of the Women’s World T20 going standalone from 2018 have been received with a mixed response.
Lanning believes a women’s IPL could have an impact similar to the Women’s Big Bash League which was played for the first time in Australia in the 2015-16 season. Lanning, who captained Melbourne Stars in the WBBL, said it was “great for the game”. The league took place after a year of conceptualisation, following Australia’s triumph at the 2014 Women’s World T20, and it was a roaring success with players from England, South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand taking part in the franchise-based tournament; no Indian player, however, participated in the league. The tournament attracted record crowds at the ground and strong viewership numbers on television. The England and Wales Cricket Board is set to launch its own franchise-based tournament, comprising six teams, called the Women’s Super League, which will be played between July 30 and August 21.
“We’ve seen women’s Big Bash kick off to a good success in Australia. There’s Super League in England as well. If there was an IPL for women here to be started, it will take the game forward and players will love to be involved in,” Lanning said. “Super League is another great step forward for the women’s game. Girls are interested in playing as well. [The] Women’s Big Bash League was great for the game. An IPL will be fantastic. India have made serious improvements in the last few years. Hope Super League works well and you never know what can happen from there.”
Lanning also felt Twenty20 cricket was the best platform to showcase women’s cricket. “It is certainly a very exciting form of the game,” Lanning said. “It creates a great atmosphere and people want to watch it. T20 has been the vehicle of women’s cricket for last few years. We love playing Tests when we get a chance and we love playing more. There’s no doubt T20 is the way forward for the women’s game.”
Lanning’s views were echoed by Charlotte Edwards, the England Women’s captain, who played for Perth Scorchers in the WBBL. “We would really like to see an IPL and even Indian players playing in the Super League and WBBL,” Edwards said. “It will be great for our game. You have seen what IPL has done for the men’s game; it will be fantastic for women’s cricket if it happens.”
Women’s cricket in India seems to have taken a turn for the better in recent times. Central contracts were formally announced in November, with India Women’s captain Mithali Raj being one of 11 cricketers to receive a fixed yearly remuneration. In January, the Lodha Committee report called for a greater presence of women in the BCCI’s power structure, with representation in key decision-making bodies.
Raj, who spoke of the need for the sport to be marketed better in India, was delighted with the response the women’s team received at the World T20 despite India’s early exit. Last week, Mohali hosted a first-of-its-kind double-header in India involving the men’s and women’s team. Prior to that, India’s matches in Delhi and Dharamsala witnessed crowds in excess of 7000. Raj attributed the changing landscape to the popularity of the game, and hoped the enthusiasm could be sustained.
“It was a good experience to play in such a crowded stadium. It wasn’t new for us personally since we had experienced it in Australia, but to see the fans cheer for us was unique,” Raj said. “Somewhere it is the game that the girls have played that has attracted such good crowd. If you want to just market the game, then T20 is the best format. But to have quality players coming through, you have to have day games, so there has to be a fine balance.
“But the recent turn of events has been positive. Matches have been televised, so a lot of girls have been encouraged. Team’s performance has been good in recent times; BCCI has taken a lot of interest like introducing central contracts. So young players can professionally approach the sport now.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo