Women’s cricket in India is set to take a leap to a new high when the Women’s Premier League (WPL) begins on Saturday. It is not just about the stars or familiar faces, the WPL promises to fulfil dreams of many other women cricketers from various nooks and corners of the country, for many of whom the game held little promise previously.
A league long overdue — the men’s IPL started in 2008 — the WPL kicks off with a contest between the Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Giants at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. That will be the first of the 21 matches that are scheduled in this inaugural season.
While the league will see Indian stars like Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana play together with some of the biggest names in the international circuit, it is the uncapped, untapped pool of homegrown cricketers who could give the tournament its X-factor.
From Jasia Akhtar, a hard-hitter from Jammu and Kashmir, to legspinner Asha Shobana from Kerala, the common cricket fan knows little about these cricketers and will be eager to find out their talent.
There will be many of them — there are a total of 87 players distributed over five teams. And they come in all ages, from raw 15-year-olds to 30-plus players. Like Shabnam Shakil, a right-arm medium pacer from Andhra Pradesh. She is just above 15 and will be representing the Gujarat franchise.
Besides providing a much-needed platform to many women cricketers to showcase and sharpen their skill, the WPL is also set to change the lives of many of them financially. The women’s game in India has not been as lucrative as the men’s, but the WPL comes with hope and will surely help many a struggling player step out of the shadows of financial hardship.
Coming to Saturday’s match, the Mumbai Indians, captained by Harmanpreet, has a star-studded team. England’s Nat Sciver-Brunt and pacer Issy Wong, New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr, South Africa’s T20 World Cup finalist Chloe Tryon, West Indies’ captain Hayley Matthews and Australia’s Heather Graham, they all make Mumbai a formidable team.
Gujarat Giants has Australian Beth Mooney as captain and has good Indian players in Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana and Sushma Verma. They also have Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner and Georgia Wareham, West Indies’ Deandra Dottin and England’s Sophia Dunkley.
■ Gujarat Giants Women vs Mumbai Indians Women, 7.30pm, DY Patil, live on Star Sports Network