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New Delhi, March 4 – On March 1, when the two-minute promo of the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) was launched, its theme “Har zubaan par naam tera (your name will be on every tongue)”, quickly became a catchphrase.
The idea behind the promo is crystal clear – cricketers have been household names in India for a long time. With the WPL, all set to begin from Saturday in Navi Mumbai, it will now make various women cricketers household names too, seen from initial matches being completely sold out.
In the WPL running till March 26, 87 players will be participating, out of which 28 are uncapped Indian cricketers. With very little television or streaming coverage of women’s domestic cricket matches, the WPL presents a golden chance for those talented players to showcase their skills in front of a worldwide audience.
“WPL will definitely benefit state players, uncapped players and other players who are playing the game, and will bring a change in them. Like, when I saw Harry (Harmanpreet Kaur) go and play WBBL in the first year and when she came back, I saw a perceivable change in her approach to the game. Something from there had rubbed off on her.”
“Until then, we were lagging in the T20 format. We were there in the ODI format, but we were lagging behind in the T20 format for quite a few years. It’s when Harman and others went out to play in other leagues and brought back that kind of professionalism. This is what I felt at that time and something similar is going to happen now as domestic players will be able to bridge the gap,” says Mamatha Maben, former India captain, to IANS.
In her pre-season press conference, India and Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur had signalled Dhara Gujjar and Jintimani Kalita as players to watch out for in the WPL. The Women’s T20 Challenge, a precursor to the WPL, gave the Indian women’s cricket team an exciting yet raw diamond in Shafali Verma. One can only imagine the limelight and exposure WPL will bring to many such uncut diamonds in India.
“WPL will increase your pool of players and create bench strength. If tomorrow, Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur) gets injured, then who can be your replacement? I see that from a recent T20 World Cup point of view. What we have been given through WPL is a platform to find more superstars who will reach every household. In the initial days, Diana Edulji and Shanta Rangaswamy were very well-known.”
“Then Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami came. Now we see the names of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur. But WPL will give you more shining stars who will perform and become superstars, like how (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Bhuvneshwar) Kumar and (Ravindra) Jadeja emerged from the IPL,” said Reema Malhotra, former India cricketer, to IANS.
The chance to share a dressing room with someone like Harmanpreet, Smriti Mandhana, Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy, and Beth Mooney in the WPL is what Reema sees as a huge advantage for domestic players aspiring to represent India at the international level.
“One will also get to play well in various game situations, handle them and learn to win too. Meg Lanning has won the World Cup five times as captain; Jemimah (Rodrigues) and Shafali will get to learn a lot, so as other uncapped players. So, the WPL will bridge the gap between a domestic and international player.”
“It will also be advantageous for India as you reach semi-finals (of global events), but don’t win them as they haven’t been able to handle pressure well or something lacked. So, one will get learnings of covering those lacks from the WPL. Like in men’s cricket, when IPL began in 2008 after winning T20 World Cup in 2007, they went on to win 2011 World Cup, which was a journey. So, for me, that journey in women’s cricket will begin from here,” she added.
When the WPL finally kickstarts from Saturday, the lives of many cricketers in India, young and old will change for the better in three weeks of the competition. “You take someone like Preeti Bose, who has been playing for 15 years in the domestic circuit and has been associated with a champion team like Railways for a decade. She played a couple of times for India. Imagine how huge an opportunity it is for her via WPL.”
“Also, the best thing about WPL is there is no age barrier. No one can say here that you are above 30 and many in India are considered old after going past that age. Someone like Jasia Akhter, who is 34, was picked by Delhi Capitals on pure talent and based on her spectacular performances in the last two years.”
“Now she can think that she has got a platform to showcase more of her talent and be prominent in the world. All cannot play for India, but number of players can take part in WPL. Those dreams can be fulfilled here,” opines Reema.
The WPL is a platform which is going to be unique yet exciting for many women cricketers in India, something which they have never come across before. It is exciting to wonder the potential WPL can throw up for Indian cricket to explore and benefit for a long time. One can just say, yeh toh bas shuruaat hai (this is just the beginning), also the official hashtag of the WPL.