The highly anticipated women’s IPL will become a reality next year, with the BCCI planning a five-team tournament for March 2023, immediately after the Women’s T20 World Cup ends in South Africa on February 26.
The BCCI’s proposed plan includes a total of 22 matches, with each squad consisting of 18 players with a maximum of six from abroad. There can be no more than five foreign players in a playing XI, with four from Full Member countries and one from an Associated nation.
Under the plan, which the BCCI sent to state unions on Thursday and has been seen by ESPNcricinfo, each team will play the others twice during the competition phase (20 games), with the league-topper going straight to the final. The second finalist will be determined via an Eliminator between the second and third ranked teams from the competition stage. The BCCI has yet to finalize the WIPL schedule, but it will be finalized before the men’s IPL begins, which is likely to be in late March.
“Playing the WIPL in the home and away format is going to be a challenge because with five to six teams it is not possible to have a match every day,” the BCCI said in its newspaper about the WIPL, which to the states. as part of the broader agenda for the annual general meeting of the board of directors to be held in Mumbai on October 18. Therefore, in the 2023 WIPL season, ten games each must be played in two locations, in the 2024 season ten each in the next two locations, and for the 2025 season, ten games in the remaining location and the remaining ten in one of the locations from season 2023.”
Where do the teams come from?
Unlike the Women’s T20 Challenge, the predecessor to the WIPL, where the teams were randomly selected, the BCCI will sell the five franchises. However, unlike the men’s IPL, where franchises bid for teams in a particular city, the BCCI has laid out two plans for the WIPL. The first consists of sales teams in six zones across the country. A series of cities in each zone have been shortlisted and include: Dharamsala/Jammu (North Zone), Pune/Rajkot (West), Indore/Nagpur/Raipur (Central), Ranchi/Cuttack (East), Kochi/Visakhapatnam ( South) and Guwahati (Northeast).
The second plan involves teams being sold but without a solid home ground, with matches being played at six IPL shortlisted venues: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
Women’s cricket in India has been a big talking point since they reached the final of the 2017 ODI World Cup at Lord’s, losing to England in front of a packed house. In 2018, the BCCI launched the Women’s T20 Challenge, but it was limited to just one race. Over the next three years, it expanded into a three-team league. Voices in women’s cricket, both in India and worldwide, were critical of BCCI’s reluctance to launch an IPL for women at the time.
The board and several state unions were initially concerned about the shallow pool of players in women’s cricket, but those concerns have now gradually disappeared.
“With the rising popularity of women’s cricket in the country mainly due to prominent appearances of the Indian Senior Cricket team on the world stage by qualifying for the 2018 T20 World Cup semi-finals, 2020 T20 World Cup finals, securing silver medal in the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, we intend to hold the Women’s IPL in the same way as the Indian Premier League,” the BCCI said in its paper on WIPL.
Growth on the domestic front has been massive with the paper stating “an overall 111% increase in player participation across categories” over the eight-year period between 2014-22. A further breakdown noted that the number increased by 129% in the senior women category and a 92% increase in the under-19 category.
The WIPL – and the proposed WPSL – will participate in the FairBreak Invitational, the Women’s Hundred, WCPL and WBBL as T20 competitions that will fuel the popularity and growth of women’s cricket worldwide. The WIPL paper also noted that the BCCI had studied both the WBBL and Women’s Hundred models before finalizing its plan.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo