The Women’s Premier League promised much. It delivered more!
The inaugural edition of the WPL, which concluded at the Brabourne Stadium here on Sunday, will forever be remembered fondly. The tournament proved that women’s cricket has finally arrived in India in its full glory. Its ripples will be felt across the cricketing globe.
For several years, women cricketers, not just from India but countries such as Australia, England and New Zealand had been crying for an IPL-like league. These past three weeks justified their demand.
The quality of cricket on display was excellent. As was the support from the fans of Mumbai: a full house witnessed the final and there were bigger crowds for some of the matches in Navi Mumbai, at the D.Y. Patil Stadium.
The WPL has created new fans. This correspondent met some women who had never followed women’s cricket before but now are fans of cricketers like Sophie Devine and Harleen Deol.
Devine played the most spectacular knock of the league — 99 off 36 balls against Gujarat Giants — but her team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, was the one that disappointed the most (so what is new, you may ask, given the men’s team’s history in the IPL). Led by Smriti Mandhana, it was the most star-studded side at the WPL, but its competition was virtually over after it lost all its first five games.
Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, won all its first five games. It was clear that it was the strongest side in the competition: it had depth and the team was replete with quality all-rounders.
But, Delhi Capitals emerged as a major threat, and it even finished ahead of MI on better net run-rate, and earned a direct ticket to the final. MI had to come through the Eliminator, in which Nat Sciver-Brunt’s brilliant innings proved the difference against UP Warriorz. The England all-rounder played another match-winning innings in the final. That meant Meg Lanning, the serial-winning-captain of Australia, had to settle for the runner-up spot as Capitals skipper. The tables had turned: her opposite number Harmanpreet Kaur had been at the receiving end as India captain at the T20 World Cup and, before that, the Commonwealth Games.
The WPL threw up new stars for India, such as Saika Ishaque, Shreyanka Patil and Kanika Ahuja. Shining bright were young stars from overseas too, like Issy Wong, Alice Capsey and Tara Norris, the American who showed what the WPL could do for Associate nations.