The independent voice of cricket

Women's Premier League 2024

‘This is what we’ve dreamed of reaching’ – The WPL is realising its limitless potential

Players step out in the first match of the 2024 WPL
by Katya Witney 10 minute read

After years of discussions, the inaugural Women’s Premier League in India proved an instant hit, attracting large crowds and offering unprecedented salaries. Ahead of the second edition, Katya Witney reflected on the success of last year and considers what the future holds for this groundbreaking competition.

This article first appeared in issue 75 of Wisden Cricket Monthly, available to buy here.

For the best part of a decade, Jemimah Rodrigues dreamed of playing in a tournament that didn’t exist. At 23 years old, she’s part of a generation who have little memory of cricket before the IPL changed everything. But, until last year, that world of glitz and glamour, where dreams are made and broken in a heartbeat, was unreachable.

“I remember going to my first IPL game as a child,” Rodrigues, who represented Delhi Capitals in the inaugural Women’s Premier League, tells WCM. “I always supported Mumbai Indians being a Mumbai local – now I support Delhi for sure – but I always dreamed of playing the WPL.”

That Rodrigues was able to envisage playing in the WPL years before it started reveals how long the tournament was in the pipeline. After the 2017 World Cup final, Mithali Raj used her platform in front of the record numbers who tuned in to publicly call for a women’s IPL. “Now is the right time to create that base,” said India’s captain. “If you ask me, they [the BCCI] should have an IPL.”

Australia’s WBBL had already been active for three years by 2017, and the KIA Super League in England was about to start its second edition. Five years after Raj made her plea, Australia and England contested the final of the 2022 World Cup, while India were knocked out in the group stage. The calls for a high-quality women’s T20 competition in India were renewed.

Until then, the BCCI had been non-committal, dipping their toe in the water with the Women’s T20 Challenge, which was introduced in 2018. The exhibition matches were played in the heat of the day rather than at night, with players often rotating off the field to avoid the sun. There was little comparison between what was being asked for and what was being delivered. Nevertheless, the T20 Challenge drew in some of the biggest names in the game.

“I was leading one of the teams,” Raj tells WCM. “From the 2017 World Cup, a lot of talks were happening to have a Women’s Premier League, and we did have the exhibition games. Those gave us a glimpse that if it happens, or when it happens, it’s bound to take off and be a huge success.”


After India’s dismal 2022 World Cup, where they lost four of seven matches and placed fifth in their group, concrete plans were announced to form an IPL-style women’s tournament the following year. From there, it was a mad dash to the start line.

“I was thrilled,” says Raj, who became a mentor for Gujarat Giants. “So were all the players. I knew for sure I wanted to be associated in some capacity. For me personally, it was pretty unique because we were starting from scratch unlike some of the other franchises who already had a set-up in the IPL.”

Following confirmation of a five-team league, franchises were unveiled less than two months before the first game, with Mumbai named as the sole host for the inaugural tournament. In an instant demonstration of the financial clout of the league, the combined sale of the five franchises amounted to approximately half a billion dollars, with the TV rights fetching another $117 million.

While three of the franchises who made successful bids had sister IPL teams, the logistics of establishing a brand-new set-up for the two other sides in such a short space of time proved challenging. Jinisha Sharma, senior director at Capri Sport who bought the UP Warriorz franchise, was overseeing another side in the ILT20 in UAE when the demands of the WPL pulled her back to Mumbai.

“From the moment we were informed we would be one of the teams, it was really quick,” she tells WCM. “We were starting from scratch compared to the other teams – we were getting into the auction and figuring out what our strategy should be. We had to make a lot of key decisions quickly, both on the field and off.”

Arguably the most difficult of those decisions came less than four weeks before the opening ceremony, when 449 players went under the gavel. With the T20 World Cup simultaneously taking place in South Africa, players found their attention drawn elsewhere as the bids rolled in.

Deepti Sharma was watching the auction with her teammates when she was bought by UP Warriorz for 2.6 crore (roughly £252,000). “We’ve always watched the IPL men’s auction,” she tells WCM, “so when it happened with us we were all in the team room and each of us was cheering the other guys as their bids were coming up. Everybody had goosebumps.”

“I was really excited,” says Rodrigues. “It was so cool to see your own players being picked by teams and people actually lifting the paddles. It was also in a way good to see people actually studying women’s cricket and following it, which we’ve not seen so much. Every franchise knew about each and every player, not just the international players but also the domestic players.”

Rodrigues was one of the most expensive Indian buys in the auction, sold to Delhi Capitals for 2.2 crore (approximately £212,000). It was a sum she could have only dreamed of a few years previously, but the money was secondary to the opportunity she’d been presented with. “I was speaking to my friend after the auction,” she says. “And I said, ‘I’m happy I got picked and got that bid, but even if any team would take me for free, I would be more than happy to play there because I just wanted to play the WPL’.”

There is an awareness, though, that the money now on offer, which is only set to rise as the tournament develops, is heading into life-changing territory for many of the players. For domestic cricketers not yet in the international fold, many of whom are still teenagers, the influx of money into the women’s game in India gives them immediate security in their chosen career.

“Vrinda [Dinesh, purchased by UP Warriorz for 1.3 crore] was one of the most expensive players in this auction,” says Deepti Sharma of the 2024 mini-auction. “Obviously when players get high bids it’s a really special achievement for them and their families. It provides them with an opportunity to move forward in life.”


While dreams were being made in the India dressing room, the atmosphere elsewhere was more tense. On the England team bus, as they travelled to their World Cup match against Ireland, Danni Wyatt, scorer of two T20 international hundreds, was processing going unsold.

“I was gutted and heartbroken, a lot of emotions really,” says Wyatt. “Especially because I really got my hopes up. I thought I was going to be picked after being a part of the exhibition games and having good stats out in India. It’s always been a dream of mine to be part of the WPL, but the tables have turned this time.”

Wyatt’s story is an indication of how quickly fortunes can shift in franchise leagues. At the time of the auction last year, Jon Lewis had just taken over as England coach and was subsequently named coach of UP Warriorz. After a year of working with Wyatt in the England set-up, Lewis’ UP Warriorz bought Wyatt in this year’s auction. The importance of scoring 75 in a T20I in Mumbai on the eve of this year’s auction isn’t lost on her.

“I couldn’t have played that knock at a better time than the night before the auction,” she says. “I didn’t really think too much about it this time around and I just went in there and thought, ‘I’ve done the best I can do and if I get picked, I get picked, and if I don’t, I’ll just keep going’.”

For the England players picked up in the auction, the proximity of the league to an international tour to New Zealand gave an early indication of the tug of war which lies ahead. The money on offer in the WPL, for the most part, far outstrips what players can earn through international match fees and central contracts. England’s most expensive WPL player, Nat Sciver-Brunt, will earn around £320,000 for a month’s work with Mumbai Indians. By comparison, the ECB offers around £4,200 for a T20I appearance, with men and women receiving equal match fees since last August.

“It’s funny, I still can’t believe I’m getting paid to play cricket,” says Wyatt. “It still feels surreal and I’ll never let it get to my head. Every year it goes up and up and up. It’s a shame, really – I mean I’m not retiring now but I’m coming to the end of my career whereas these young ’uns, they’re going to be billionaires. In 10 years’ time, I wonder how much someone like Alice Capsey is going to be earning. It’s going to be mad.”


With the nuts and bolts put in place just in time, the tournament kicked off in March 2023. The India captain, Harmanpreet Kaur, was Player of the Match in the first game, the first five-wicket haul, taken by American left-arm seamer Tara Norris, followed in the second, and three weeks of matches across two grounds in Mumbai built to a crescendo with the final at the Brabourne Stadium between Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals.

“Honestly, it went way beyond my expectations,” says Rodrigues. “I didn’t know what to expect in the first edition. There were so many questions and a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves but the kind of response we got… we had packed stadiums, we had people following from all over the world.”

The global audience is key. Nowhere is cricket as marketable or as profitable as India. Part of the success of the IPL is the brands built around players which are bled into public consciousness through social media feeds, inflating their stardom to new levels. Historically, women’s cricket hasn’t had that marketing space.

“I feel like there is a lot of opportunity,” says Jinisha Sharma. “We found if you were to Google a lot of the players in the WPL, even those that play in the India team, you won’t find a lot of information on them. There’s a missing link somewhere for why women in sports are not getting the kind of limelight they should be. The moment you’re able to present female cricketers as heroes or icons, the space will grow.”

The video shared by the WPL’s official account of Issy Wong taking the tournament’s first hat-trick has been viewed on X (formerly Twitter) over 300,000 times. Footage of Rodrigues leading her Delhi teammates in an impromptu dance instantly went viral and she now has over 1 million Instagram followers.

The deafening sold-out crowd that watched Mumbai Indians skipper Harmanpreet lift the trophy is proof that the tournament as a business is working. But a story Rodrigues tells of a late-night conversation in Mumbai shows the wider impact the league is beginning to have.

“I’d taken Tara Norris to get ice cream,” Rodrigues says. “I put a hoodie on so that nobody would recognise me. I was standing in line and there was this one guy who was watching the TV in the ice cream parlour and talking about the IPL. Then he said to his friend, ‘Dude, have you heard about the Women’s Premier League?’ I was all ears because whatever response I would hear would be very raw and honest. He was like: ‘It’s amazing the way these girls play. It doesn’t feel like a men’s team or a women’s team, it’s just good cricket.’ That was when I thought, that’s it. This is what we’ve dreamed of reaching and it’s only going to get better from here.”


The impact of the WPL stretches far beyond India, with the availability of a fifth spot in an XI for an associate nation player bringing yet more opportunities. Last year, Tara Norris grabbed headlines after she took the first five-for of the tournament. Born and bred in the USA but playing her domestic cricket in England, the chances for Norris to build her name as an international cricketer are limited. The WPL gave her a new platform.

Despite Norris’ success, taking seven wickets at 12.7 in the last campaign, she was released by Delhi Capitals before the 2024 season – a reminder of how precarious life as an overseas player can be.

Scotland captain Kathryn Bryce is the latest associate player looking to make her mark after she was bought by Gujarat Giants. “I think it’s such a big opportunity,” Bryce, who made her international debut at the age of 13, tells WCM. “There are so many associate players out there who are high-quality players that could really add to a side. Being able to play that extra [associate] player is a definite advantage. So hopefully in the future we’ll see more associate players getting picked up.

“Most associate players get to play in the global qualifiers and regional tournaments around the world, but they don’t get to play against some of the best players in the world. When they do [get that chance], they get to prove they can stand side by side, even though they’re not from those main countries.”

Bryce will be entering the unknown. An all-rounder for The Blaze in the English domestic competition and Manchester Originals in The Hundred, the 26-year-old has never played cricket in India before. With the T20 World Cup limited to 10 teams and bilateral series against full member sides all but non-existent, the expansion of franchise cricket offers the most promising avenue for growth for associate players.

“Before the last couple of years, there’s only been the WBBL,” she says. “But now with so much expansion, lots of players, if they do well, can get picked up in different competitions. The top players in the world aren’t going to be able to play in all of these new competitions.”


After the helter-skelter build-up to the 2023 tournament, this year’s edition offers a chance for the WPL to bed in. Matches will be split between Bengaluru and Delhi, with whispers already of a home-and-away format in 2025. A competition which took six years from first discussions to realisation is now moving at pace.

“The general feeling among the players is the better we perform, the higher the chances are of expansion,” says Deepti Sharma. “That’s what we’re working towards and that’s what will facilitate the growth.

“The youngsters who got an opportunity last year, I can sense an increase in the level of their performances in the domestic season this time around. So the overall standards of Indian domestic cricket have improved because of the first season of the WPL and it’ll definitely have a greater impact going forward.”

“Already we’re seeing that there’s a need for a new team to come in,” says Jinisha Sharma, whose UP Warriorz made the eliminator in 2023. “The number of people that were not picked in the mini-auction, simply because we didn’t have space, has nothing to do with their talent. When someone like a Chamari Athapaththu [who was later drafted in by UP Warriorz as a replacement for England’s Lauren Bell] doesn’t get picked up, you know that it partly has to be because nobody had the spots or money available.”

The inevitable increase in the number of teams will further test the strength of India’s domestic talent pool. But already, the WPL is providing a fast-track to international recognition for the country’s brightest youngsters. In the T20I series against England last December, Shreyanka Patil and Saika Ishaque made their international debuts following success in the WPL.

“The player pool has definitely increased,” says Raj. “Even if a talented player goes unnoticed in the domestic calendar, they still have a second chance to prove themselves in the WPL. These girls are fearless when they come to this platform. They’re already exposed to the competitive nature of the international level because we have India A, the under-23 now in domestic cricket, and the Under-19 World Cup last year.

“The WPL also has talent scouts. Putting the team together, the auction and logistical things, having a good team, not just on the field but a team to look after the players, pre-season camps… we are gradually learning how to put together a proper structure.”

The scouting process for the WPL has the potential to transform the landscape of women’s cricket in India. In an increasingly data-driven sport, the lack of meaningful statistics for women’s players has previously resulted in stagnation in player pathways, leading selectors to stick with established names. As the WPL grows, that will no longer be the case.

“I do feel that scouting for women’s cricket is still quite unorganised,” says Jinisha Sharma. “There aren’t many resources available and the data is still kind of being built. But with the WPL, I’m sure data to evaluate players will increase soon.”

The opportunities for growth are endless. As the WPL’s revenue potential balloons, so too will player salaries, with the ripple effect being felt by female players across the world.

“The responsibility is ours now,” says Rodrigues. “We’ve got this foundation, we’ve got this platform. It’s up to all of us now to take it to the next level, and that will only happen now by playing good cricket.”

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99