The WPL has changed the landscape of women’s cricket forever says Thunder player and Sky Sports blogger Phoebe Graham, as she reflects on bumper contracts, big crowds, high-pressure games and Mumbai Indians winning the title…
What a tournament the Women’s Premier League has been.
High scoring, exceptional overseas talent and great crowds. India put on a spectacular competition which not only captured their nation but the globe.
After the inaugural auction weeks before the tournament, we knew the WPL was going to be a showcase event. Overnight, it became the highest-paid franchise tournament in women’s sport with the best players in the world up for selection.
India’s Smriti Mandhana (£340,000) and Australia’s Ashleigh Gardener (£320,000) were the highest earners. That life-changing money is more than their national contracts and showed the direction of travel women’s cricket is going in.
Having just come back from a pre-season tour to Dubai and Mumbai with North West Thunder, I was lucky enough to attend two WPL games. The sheer number of fans in the stadium and the noise that they were making took my breath away.
At the Dr DY Patil Sports Academy Mumbai, we watched a group game with 35-40,000 fans. The atmosphere was electric – you could feel the energy before even walking into the stadium. It added an extra level of pressure and intensity, one that only India can provide.
That pressure and intensity is exactly what the women’s game needs.
This tournament helps grow India’s domestic game and adds to the heritage of Indian cricket but also provide overseas cricketers a heightened stage to perform on and be a catalyst for growth for women’s cricket globally.
‘WPL will stimulate growth for other leagues’
The level of energy and excitement added to Sunday’s final.
Delhi Capitals posted a low-scoring total of 131-9. Their strong top order crumbled under pressure with soft dismissals for Shafali Verma, Alice Capsey and Jemimah Rodrigues.
It could have been a roll over without a last-wicket stand of 52 between Shikha Pandey and Radha Jadav but with runs on the board in a final, low-scoring totals can often cause headaches.
Mumbai Indians looked in trouble at times and it ended up being a nail-biting game going down to the last over. Nat Sciver-Brunt was the star of the show, playing a beautiful and timely innings of 60 off 55 balls to get her team over the line.
What an achievement for Mumbai! English stars Sciver-Brunt and Issy Wong have become rockstars overnight, while Charlotte Edwards adds to her silverware collection as one of the most successful women’s coaches of all time.
This experience for players to play under such intense pressure and in front of big crowds and big expectations is second to none. It will dramatically improve India’s national team and overseas talent such as Wong and Sciver-Brunt will shine.
The WPL will stimulate growth for other leagues as well, like the PSL and in the Caribbean, and we will also see the impact on player choice. For example, the Australians can enjoy the break in their schedule in August or play in The Hundred.
The WPL is the most lucrative women’s tournament in the world and the sheer investment has changed the landscape of women’s cricket forever. It’s such an exciting time for the game and I can’t wait to see how it evolves over the next few years.