New Delhi: 2023 will always be remembered as the year where the inaugural edition of the revolutionary Womens Premier League (WPL), which ended with Mumbai Indians clinching the glittering trophy, showing bright promise of changing womens cricket in India for the better.
Before the WPL, there was the Women’s T20 Challenge from 2018 to 2022, where three teams played in a round-robin group followed by the final. But there were always a voice about having a full-fledged IPL-style like tournament, which was always delayed with excuse related to bench strength.
But once the plunge to get the WPL up and running was taken, the Brabourne and DY Patil Stadiums became witness to excellence from uncapped India players, who were either young or had done the hard yards in domestic cricket for a long time.
Left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque took 15 wickets for Mumbai while Shreyanka Patil and Kanika Ahuja shined for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Parshavi Chopra, the India U19 leg-spinner, was impressive for UP Warriorz, a side which gave consistent chances to young Indian players like Shweta Sehrawat, Simran Shaikh and S Yashasri.
Though captain Harmanpreet Kaur acknowledged that domestic talent didn’t get that much roles to burst on the big stage, people like Asha Sobhana, Tanuja Kanwar, Amanjot Kaur and Jintimani Kalita did their best whenever a chance to shine came by.
Harmanpreet, who finally had her hands on a major trophy, had also wished after the end of the tournament that young and uncapped Indian players would emerge wiser from their experiences of WPL, and become more aware of what needs to be done consistently to achieve excellence on-field.
“How to keep calm in a pressure situation and do well for your team – that is something you need to learn. Otherwise, skill-wise, I don’t think anybody is inferior because everybody is working so hard. Even in fitness, they are doing so well,” she added.
Granted that the tournament was held in a very short span of time, but the learnings which young and uncapped Indian cricketers had in three weeks of WPL from highly-experienced coaches and many international stars being their team-mates, will be priceless for them.
The impact of listening and learning from experiences of overseas stars, especially from the hugely successful Australian cricketers and coaches, would be huge in terms of technical skill, work ethics, training drills and mentally too, something which will reward unheralded Indian cricketers in the long run.
“The turning point for me as a cricketer was in 2016 when I was going to play WBBL for the first time. I travelled alone, and I did everything alone. During that time, I learnt a lot. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to improve myself and bring back learnings for my India teammates.”
“After that, we did well in the 2017 World Cup. When I was there (playing WBBL), I saw how they trained and what their mindset was. The approach of many (Indian) players has changed after I told them about all these things,” added Harmanpreet after the end of the final.
From the fan base point of view, many had that bit of uncertainty about the two stadiums being full for watching women’s cricket. With free entry for women spectators and nominal ticket prices on the whole, the pricing strategy looked good enough to fill the stands irrespective of whether the matches were held on weekdays or weekends.
Mumbai didn’t disappoint in that aspect, as people from various age groups, right from young kids with their parents to middle-aged persons, travelled to be a part of unfolding of a revolution named WPL. The atmosphere created by the fans on matchdays was rare to witness, including on weekdays, where the crowd was loud and made for an amazing spectacle.
Even before the WPL had begun, it had started to change so many lives in Indian cricket through the financial deals the young and uncapped players got. Through WPL, they got to pick brains of many superstars of the game and took invaluable learnings from them for a lifetime. The future is indeed bright for women’s cricket in India through the WPL.