The Board of Control for Cricket in India finalised the five franchises that will take part in the first edition of the Women’s Indian T20 League on Wednesday. The owners of Team Mumbai, Team Delhi and Team Bangalore along with the Adani Group and Capri Global have bagged the rights to the five franchises, with the auction fetching a record sum of ₹4669.99 crores.
With the media rights for the inaugural edition of the tournament already sold to Viacom Media, the first edition of the Women’s Indian T20 League is all set to begin in the first week of March before the start of the Men’s Indian T20 League.
Franchise Auction Receives Widespread Interest
In a major initiative to make the inaugural edition of the Women’s Indian T20 League a success, the BCCI has decided to first auction the media rights for the tournament even before finalising the franchises. This allowed participants in the auction to do a thorough analysis of the expected revenue from the media rights, with the BCCI announcing that 80% of the ₹951 crores received from Viacom Media will be distributed to the franchises over the five-year period.
The BCCI adopted a ranked-preference bidding process for the franchises, with 16 entities entering the fray on Wednesday. Team Ahmedabad received the highest bid, with the Adani Group paying ₹1289 crore for the Gujarat-based franchise. Team Mumbai was widely expected to go the way of Indiawin Sports, the owner of Team Mumbai in the Men’s Indian T20 League. Team Lucknow was bagged by Capri Global for a sum of ₹757 crores, the lowest among the bids accepted.
With an average of $114.4 million per team, the Women’s Indian T20 League is set to be the highest-valued Women’s sports tournament in the world. When compared to the ₹2,900 crores received by the BCCI in 2008 for the first edition of the Men’s Indian T20 League, the interest received by the Women’s Indian T20 League shows the growth of the game in India, as well as the future potential that franchise owners see in the game.
Schedule And Format To Be Announced Soon
With the teams now finalised, the BCCI is expected to announce the official format and schedule of the inaugural edition soon. With the Women’s ICC T20 World Cup scheduled to end on February 26, the BCCI is expected to start the tournament in the first week of March. A total of 22 games are scheduled to be played until March 26, with the top-ranked team in the league qualifying directly for the final. The second and third-placed teams will battle it out for the second spot in the final.
The BCCI is expected to allow five foreign players in each franchise, with the auction for players expected to be scheduled in the first two weeks of February. Each team will have a total purse of ₹12 crores to bid for 15 to 18 players in their squad. The auction is expected to see intense bidding wars between the franchises, as every team would like to include familiar names in their squad to attract interest from fans for the first season.
All the games of the tournament are also expected to take place in Mumbai itself for the first edition, as the BCCI and franchises will be keen to reduce costs and attract fans to the stadium. The recent success of India’s fixtures in Mumbai to attract sell-out crowds bolsters Mumbai’s case for hosting all 22 games, but the BCCI might look to schedule some games in Ahmedabad as well.
Will The Women’s Indian T20 League Succeed?
The record sums paid by Viacom Media for broadcast rights and the franchises prove that there is immense potential for Women’s cricket in India. While there are concerns that franchises are overvaluing the teams, similar concerns were expressed at the start of the Men’s Indian T20 League, which is now one of the most valuable sports leagues in the world. Since the rights to own franchises are given out indefinitely, the owners of all five franchises are likely to absorb losses for the first few years to grow the league’s reach.
For BCCI, the success of the auction process validates its approach to the tournament. By growing the league’s size organically by starting with just five franchises, more franchises can be added to the tournament later on, fetching greater bids. The BCCI could also shift slowly to the Big Bash League’s model of scheduling Men’s and Women’s games on the same day.
Above all, the start of the Women’s Indian T20 League heralds a new dawn for Women’s cricket in India. For a long time, a clear gender bias was evident in the sport, with both the salaries and importance given to women by the BCCI coming under criticism. But that changed in the last few years owing to the success of Indian Women on the world stage, and the start of the Women’s Indian T20 League is an extension of that recognition.
The league will allow more women to join cricket in India, where the sport was traditionally considered a domain of men. With the opportunity to make more money, more youngsters will look at cricket as a career to pursue, improving the quality of the Women’s national team. The dominance of Australia in Women’s cricket for so long has been partly attributed to the success of the Women’s Big Bash League, and the Women’s Indian T20 League has the potential to generate similar returns for India on the world stage.
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