Gear up for Indian cricket’s latest offering – a global T20 league for women along the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Wait, why not just call it the Women’s IPL? Yes, they can, except that the BCCI is still busy brainstorming if the brand new property they’re coming up with – the processes for which will begin by the end of this month – needs to be called the ‘Women’s IPL’ or be given a separate identity altogether.
It could be called the ‘Women’s IPL’ or the ‘Women’s Premier League (WPL) or Women’s T20 Challenge or anything else. That’s a wait-and-watch for now.
So, what’s on the table already?
Well, for starters, it’s the BCCI’s absolute wish that this property – once it sees the light of the day, which will be very soon – matches global standards in sport just like the IPL, has participation from every corner of the world, is competitive enough to catch viewer-attention, and sets the narrative in women’s cricket going forward just the way the IPL did.
For now, here are a few plans the BCCI is ready with and is waiting to unroll in the coming weeks.
A tender document to sell five franchises via e-auction
A bit of detail here. The existing men’s IPL franchises have something called a ‘master franchise agreement’ in place by way of which, there’s already an understanding that they need to participate in holistic improvement of the game that also includes women’s cricket. However, it is the BCCI’s call that it wants to float a tender independent of the current men’s IPL, although existing owners of men’s IPL franchises are free to bid.
Base price of the tender document
This can be an interesting proposition. The BCCI is contemplating – the exact details aren’t clear yet – bringing out a tender document that has a base price on the lines of the men’s IPL franchise when tender documents to buy teams were first floated in 2007-08. Broadly put, the BCCI expects women’s franchises to find the kind of value today that men’s franchises found when the IPL was first put in place by the cricket board 15 years ago.
Potentially who can buy?
The BCCI wants to sell five franchises for women’s IPL and Cricketnext understands that more than five IPL franchise owners are interested in picking up teams at the moment – Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals (50% owners GMR), Kolkata Knight Riders, Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore. Chennai Super Kings were learnt to be contemplating and could make up their minds once the tender is out.
There is no word yet on the others. Meanwhile, some of the companies that attempted to buy the men’s franchises when the auction took place last in UAE last year – such as a pharmaceutical company based out of Gujarat, a leading financial investment company – are also showing interest.
When will the tournament be held and when?
The tournament will begin in the second week of March in 2023 and conclude around March 23, a few days before the start of the men’s IPL. Right now, the BCCI is contemplating hosting the women’s IPL in one or two cities, before expanding gradually in the coming seasons.
The BCCI will float a separate tender for e-auction of broadcast rights, on the lines of how the men’s IPL broadcast rights were recently sold.
Player availability and distribution
The BCCI has been busy signing central contracts with leading women cricketers in India and around the world. Just like the IPL where central contracts further lead to tripartite agreements after franchises decide to buy the players, the women’s cricketers will be initiated through a draft process in the early stages and then an auction if deemed necessary.
The five women’s franchises will work on the lines of men’s IPL where each team will have a maximum of 18 players and four overseas players will be allowed in the eleven.
Emphasis on women participation
The BCCI is putting a lot of emphasis on greater participation from women in this league, off the field too. From building a narrative around the game and the league – be it match commentary, on-ground presentations, corporate partnerships, sponsors, etc. – the cricket board wants to ensure that the ecosystem continues to remain women-centric to all extent possible.