The success of Women’s T20 Challenge makes a strong case for Women’s IPL

The women’s game is now fast paced and competitive and with time it will improve further making the case for a full fledged IPL a very strong one.

Jemimah Rodrigues playing a shot during the Women's T20 Challenge in Jaipur.
While watching the women’s T20 matches, three things stood out. First, the quality of bowling on display, especially spin. Be it Sophie Ecclestone or Radha Yadav or Rajeshwari Gaekwad the spin bowling on view was of the very highest standard. Bowling the 19th over of the innings, Eccelestone conceded just two runs against two of the best hitters in the women’s game, Sophie Devine and Harmanpreet Kaur, a testimony to her quality and temperament.

The second is most obviously the standard of batting. Devine, Harmanpreet and Smriti Mandhana have all hit sixes close to or more than 70 meters, hits that would have cleared the rope in most men’s IPL contests. Smriti’s strokes on the offside were reminiscent of Sourav Ganguly’s class while Harman’s assault against Jhulan Goswami in the last over of the first match was much like MS Dhoni’s attack against Umesh Yadav. While Dhoni had fallen short by one run, Harman fell short by two. But before that the shots she hit were just breathtaking. And Harman wasn’t an aberration. Chamari Atapattu and Devine, both leading stars of their respective national teams, were equally good and that’s what stands out in this experiment with the women’s IPL (WIPL).

Finally, the pace of the game. Gone are the days when it was more like a slower version of the men’s game. The women’s game is now fast paced and competitive and with time it will improve further making the case for a full fledged IPL a very strong one.

“The time is absolutely ripe for the women’s IPL. If you see the games in Jaipur you will know how committed the players are and how competitive things have become. The women’s Big Bash has only grown bigger and better and more and more players are getting attracted to the game. A full-fledged IPL will only help this development and speed things up,” says Goswami, one of the legends of the women’s game and one who has come out of T20 retirement to support the cause.

Mithali Raj, perhaps the best-ever batter to have played the game for India, agrees. “For the future generation of cricketers this is a huge development. It serves as an aspiration for each of them. All of a sudden you have something seriously good to look up to. A women’s IPL means you get a lot many more opportunities. There is recognition, television broadcast, the chance to play with the very best in the world and of course the monetary rewards that follow. I am convinced the time is ripe for the next major step in improving the women’s game,” argues Raj.

Is it then a ready product all set to rise to the next level? May be not. But then the men’s game in 2008 and the men’s game now are two very different beasts. Some of the shots played by Suryakumar Yadav in the qualifier against Chennai were inconceivable in 2008. Things have taken a quantum leap in the men’s game. With the women’s Big Bash already an established product, it can be assumed that with the launch of WIPL, many other countries will also start to experiment with women’s franchise leagues just like they have with the men’s version.

At a time when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is striving towards gender equality and has introduced mixed-gender events in Tokyo 2020 for the first time, there is no reason why the International Cricket Council (ICC) or the Indian cricket board should lag behind. And the argument that the women’s game is visually less appealing is simply poor. In that case, we shouldn’t hail Mary Kom as a legend of our sport for the quality of women’s boxing in the lesser weight categories can never be visually as appealing as the men’s draws. But on its own it is a fantastic sport that deserves every bit of the support that comes its way and that’s exactly why Mary will forever be one of the greatest athletes to have come out of India.

“Women’s cricket is on the verge of a major breakthrough and I believe the WIPL is exactly that,” Goswami says.

Mithali has in fact gone a step further to say, “It is now a revolution in making. Time we complete the circle and close the loop.”
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