WPL hailed as 'game-changing' for women's cricket
Franchise, media rights for women's version of the Indian Premier League sold for around $700m
New Delhi (AFP) – Indian cricket administrators and pundits on Monday hailed the Women's Premier League as a huge success after the inaugural tournament ended in fireworks with the Mumbai Indians winning the trophy in front of a huge crowd.
Franchise and media rights for the women's version of the Indian Premier League sold for around $700 million, making it the second-most lucrative domestic women's sports competition after US professional basketball.
Mumbai beat the Delhi Capitals by seven wickets in a thrilling final on Sunday to conclude the three-week Twenty20 extravaganza of the newest addition to women's cricket.
England's Nat Sciver-Brunt hit the winning runs to trigger wild celebrations at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium, which was nearly full to its capacity of 20,000.
"It was like a festival for women's cricket which the entire world was celebrating. The atmosphere at the stadium was at par if not better than any big tournament final," IPL chairman Arun Dhumal told AFP.
"The way the tournament was conducted, the response to the matches, it went off as one of the best women's cricket tournaments, even if you compare with the recently held World Cup.
"As far as TV ratings are concerned, as far as competitive cricket is concerned, it was a great tournament." West Indies all-rounder Hayley Matthews was named player of the series for her 16 wickets and 271 runs.
Australia's Meg Lanning, who led Delhi from the front with 345 runs including 35 in the final after being cruelly run out, scored the most runs in the competition. Dhumal, former treasurer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), called the competition "game-changing" for the women's game in the cricket-obsessed country of 1.4 billion.
"It will pave the way for many young girls (in India) to make a career in the sport," he said.
Former England men's captain Michael Vaughan predicted a bright future for the WPL, tweeting: "The #WPL has been fantastic... Only going to get bigger & bigger."
Mumbai and India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, who became the first Indian cricketer to be signed by an overseas T20 franchise when she joined Sydney Thunder in the Australian Women's Big Bash in 2016, said the WPL will make home players improve.
"The pressure that comes with playing at this level and how to stay calm is what the Indian payers should learn from their overseas teammates," Kaur told reporters. Kaur said: "Next season will be more exciting and people will be waiting for this."
Mumbai coach and England great Charlotte Edwards, a former national captain who played 191 ODIs and 23 Tests, called Sunday's title win one of her "greatest moments in cricket".
The Mumbai team is owned by Nita Ambani, wife of India's richest man, Reliance Industries billionaire Mukesh Ambani. The Mumbai men's team also holds a record five titles in the IPL, the 16th edition of which gets under way on Friday.