India’s inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) has generated hundreds of millions of dollars even before a ball is bowled, with experts calling it a game-changing moment for women’s sport.
The five debut franchises of the T20 tournament — with the first game scheduled for tomorrow — together sold for nearly US$200 million, more than the eight founding teams of the men’s Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008.
Together with media rights for the first five seasons, the WPL has already earned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) a shade under US$700 million, making it the second-most valuable domestic women’s sport competition globally after US professional basketball.
“That’s an unprecedented amount of investment into the women’s game,” James Savage of the Deloitte Sports Business Group told reporters. “That level of investment has come around because of the huge growth potential.”
The BCCI is betting big on the WPL, and women’s sport is attracting higher levels of viewership, media coverage, TV rights and sponsorships globally.
More than 86,000 people watched the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between hosts Australia and India, the highest ever for a women’s cricket match.
Television audiences — a crucial metric for boosting media rights revenue for organizers — have also been hitting records across women’s sport.
“It’s additional confirmation that ... women’s sports is the next economy for sport,” said Thayer Lavielle of The Collective, the women’s division of US sports marketing agency Wasserman.
“I believe that marketers need to really start to pay attention to what satisfies us,” Lavielle told reporters.
Underlining global interest in the WPL, British broadcaster Sky Sports on Wednesday said that it would show matches live.
The final of the tournament is on March 26, with all of the games in Mumbai.
The BCCI last year sold the media rights for five IPL seasons for a record US$6.2 billion and hopes the women’s equivalent would eventually prove similarly lucrative.
“The initial response to the WPL has definitely showcased the potential the league has to become the biggest women’s domestic sporting tournament,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah told reporters. “The WPL will set a template for other sports to follow suit.”
Savage said that the true benchmark of success would be whether women cricketers such as India’s Shafali Verma can have the same profile as India’s Virat Kohli.
“I think a dream scenario would be you don’t need to prefix a sport with ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s,’” he said. “You just say: ‘It’s cricket.’”
INDIA v AUSTRALIA
AP, INDORE, India
Nathan Lyon yesterday took 8-64 to leave Australia needing 76 runs to beat India as day 2 of the third Test closed with the fall of the host’s final second-innings wicket.
India were bowled out for 163 after Lyon’s incredible eight-wicket haul.
They set Australia 76 runs to earn a rare Test win in India after losing the first two Tests of the four-match series.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s fighting 59 gave India some hope, but it was mainly 61 overs of grim cricket for the hosts.
Resuming on 13-0 after lunch, Shubman Gill (5) was bowled by Lyon and captain Rohit Sharma was next, LBW to Lyon for 12.
Virat Kohli was also out LBW while trying to cut Matthew Kuhnemann off the back foot.
When Lyon trapped Ravindra Jadeja (7), India were 78-4 and still trailing Australia by nine runs.
Shreyas Iyer gave India momentum, hitting three fours and two sixes in 26 before he was out to a brilliant catch by Usman Khawaja at midwicket off Mitchell Starc.
Lyon bowled Srikar Bharat (3) to reach his five-for and got Ravichandran Ashwin out LBW on 16. Pujara’s dismissal to a stunning leg-slip catch by Steve Smith off Lyon ended India’s hopes of posting a bigger target.
Umesh Yadav holed out in the deep for a two-ball duck and Lyon bowled Mohammed Siraj without scoring to complete the rout.
S AFRICA v WEST INDIES
AFP, CENTURION, South Africa
South Africa fast bowler Anrich Nortje on Wednesday was at a loss to explain a second successive day of late batting collapses at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
The second day of the first Test ended dramatically with the West Indies hitting back after their batting crumbled after tea.
Nortje took four wickets inside four overs, finishing with figures of 5-36, as the West Indies crashed to 212 all out, giving South Africa a first-innings lead of 130.
However, the West Indies bowlers grabbed four South Africa wickets before the close, leaving the hosts reeling at 49-4, an overall lead of 179.
“In general at SuperSport Park, wickets fall late in the day,” Nortje told reporters. “Maybe it’s [the effect of] the sun. I don’t really have an explanation, but you do see the ball misbehaving.”
Of the 24 wickets that have fallen during the first two days, 18 have been between tea and the close, seven on the first day and 11 on Wednesday.
On day 3 yesterday, South Africa were dismissed for 116 in their second innings to leave the West Indies a target of 247 to win.
The visitors were 93-6 at tea at press time last night, still needing 154 more runs.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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