Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) cricket to be played in India has turned out to be a game changer for women sport in the country. Moreover, it has become another money spinner for BCCI.

BCCI has generated hundreds of millions of dollars even before a single ball is bowled in the women version of the cash-rich league.

Five debutant franchises of WPL have been sold together for nearly $200 million. Along with media rights for the first five seasons, the WPL has already earned BCCI around $700 million. Though these numbers are small compared to the men’s league, market experts say it’s a very good start. WPL has become the second most valuable domestic women’s sport competition globally after US professional basketball.

Off late, television audiences, a crucial metric for boosting media rights revenue for organizers, have also been hitting records across women’s sport. BCCI is keen to cash in on the trend.

The auction for WPL also saw big names attracting big money with analytics taking a back seat. Left-handed flamboyant opener Smriti Mandhana was the most expensive player to be bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore at whooping Rs 3.4 crore that is 8.3% of the total purse of a franchise. Australian all-rounder Ashleigh Gardener was the most expensive overseas cricketer as she went to Gujarat Giants for Rs 3.2 crore.

However, as per experts, the quality of women’s cricket must grow for the sustenance of the league apart from the marketing strategy.

“The broadcaster’s role is sequential and consequential. The tournament can be promoted and hyped up, but ultimately the quality of cricket has to be compelling to watch,” said an expert.

Notably, BCCI is leaving no stones unturned to woo fans to the inaugural edition of WPL which will start in Mumbai on March 4.