WPL a game-changer for women's cricket

Indian cricket administrators and pundits on Monday hailed the Women's Premier League (WPL) as a huge success after the inaugural tournament ended in fireworks with the Mumbai Indians winning the trophy.

Franchise and media rights for the women's version of the Indian Premier League (IPL) sold for around US$700 million ($930 million), making it the second-most lucrative domestic women's sports competition after American professional basketball.

Mumbai beat Delhi Capitals by seven wickets in a thrilling final on Sunday to conclude the three-week Twenty20 extravaganza of the newest addition to women's cricket.

England's Nat Sciver-Brunt hit the winning runs to trigger wild celebrations at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium, which was almost filled to its full capacity of 20,000.

"It was like a festival for women's cricket that the entire world was celebrating. The atmosphere at the stadium was at a par, if not better, than any big tournament final," said IPL chairman Arun Dhumal.

"The way the tournament was conducted, the response to the matches, it went off as one of the best women's cricket tournaments, even if you compare with the recent World Cup.

"As far as television ratings and competitive cricket go, it was a great tournament."

West Indies all-rounder Hayley Matthews was named player of the series for her 16 wickets and 271 runs.

Australia's Meg Lanning, who led Delhi from the front with 345 runs including 35 in the final after being cruelly run out, scored the most runs in the competition.

Dhumal called the competition "game-changing" for the women's game in the cricket-obsessed country of 1.4 billion. "It will pave the way for many young girls to make a career in the sport," he said.

Former England men's captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: "The #WPL has been fantastic. Only going to get bigger and bigger."

Mumbai and India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, who became the first Indian cricketer to be signed by an overseas T20 franchise when she joined Sydney Thunder in the Australian Women's Big Bash in 2016, said the WPL will improve home players.

"The pressure that comes with playing at this level and how to remain calm are what the Indian payers should learn from their overseas teammates," said Harmanpreet.

"Next season will be more exciting and people will be waiting for this."

Mumbai coach and England great Charlotte Edwards, a former national captain who played 191 ODIs and 23 Tests, called Sunday's title win one of her "greatest moments in cricket".

The Mumbai team is owned by Nita Ambani, wife of Reliance Industries billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

The Mumbai men's team also holds a record five titles in the IPL, the 16th edition of which gets under way today.



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