Hugo Barcia and Mikaela Viqueira |
New Delhi (EFE).- The inaugural edition begins on March 4. India’s largest companies invested more than $550 million to acquire the five participating clubs. 15% of the value of the men’s teams. 500 million people watch the men’s league. Only 20 million are expected to follow women’s cricket.
India, a country where cricket is king, will organize from this year the Women’s Cricket Premier League (WPL), a competition similar to the men’s tournament and which is aimed at professionalizing female athletes in the Asian country.
Made up of five teams that will play a total of 22 matches between March 4 and 26 in the western city of Mumbai, the competition, promoted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), will serve as the opening act for the start a few days after the Men’s Premier League (IPL), the real goose that laid the golden eggs.
Little economic interest
The start of the women’s competition had the interest of some thirty Indian companies, several of them owners of clubs in the men’s tournament, who also bid to gain control of one of the five franchises.
However, much less spending was required, with an average disbursement of 112 million dollars per team, which raised the total investment above 550 million, according to what Karan Taurani, vice president of the Indian markets firm, told EFE. capital, Elara Capital.
Although this figure is only 15% of the average value of IPL teams, it is almost double the $60 million each men’s club cost for the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2008.
The disproportion is even greater in the section on television rights, which in the IPL accounts for up to 80% of the budgets of some clubs.
Viacom18, the joint venture between Paramount and Reliance Industries that already owns the digital rights to the men’s tournament, paid $114.8 million to broadcast the WPL over the next five years, up from the $6 billion it cost last year to broadcast a five years in the men’s league.
An abysmal difference that Taurani attributes to the limited reach of women’s cricket, of only 20 million people, in a country made up of 1.4 billion inhabitants and which idolizes cricket as if it were a religion. By comparison, the IPL is followed by more than 500 million.
All of this makes the new competition an investment that “can only pay big dividends in the long run, as long as women’s cricket attracts a large following in India,” the expert said.
… and a large glass ceiling
The salary inequality between men and women is also another aspect that is palpable from the base. In the creation of the IPL in 2008, each team had a salary limit of 5 million dollars to make its squad, while that limit stands at 1.5 million for women, according to BCCI data.
Of the 87 players who will play the first edition of the WPL, thirty of them foreigners, the Indian Smriti Mandhana will be the best paid with a gross salary of about $410,000. The minimum wage, meanwhile, was set at $12,000.
The creation of this league is still an advance in the professionalization of Indian athletes, who until now could only show their potential in the national team matches and in a small one-week annual league that pitted three teams against each other.
Despite the economic barriers and low investment, women show increasing interest in learning the king of sports from the Asian giant.
“Many talented people come from very poor families, we want these people to grow, sometimes we have to fight with the families so that they get ahead,” said GS Harry, director of a school that trains men and women of all ages in New Delhi.
The academy has been standing for more than two decades and, although it does not have perfect facilities, generations of parents have taken their children to their classes at this school in the north of the Indian capital.
There, along with a couple of coaches and two long lanes for perfecting ball toss and batting, the news of a women’s cricket league is greeted with great hope.
“It is a good initiative to motivate players like us. Maybe I can reach that level in two years, ”Sumitra Sahni, one of her students, told EFE.