WPL to get first taste of mini-auction dynamics
Only nine overseas slots are vacant and three of the five franchises have only one such slot to fill
Last winter, at a luxurious convention hall in suburban Bandra, the economics of women’s cricket changed forever. Nearly ₹60 crore was splashed in an auction room to secure contracts of 87 players for the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL).
Playing the World Cup in South Africa, Indian cricket’s leading ladies were in raptures, cheering each other’s life-changing moment. Pacing around in her room, England’s Sophie Ecclestone felt it was ‘mad money’ when she went for ₹1.8 crore.
Before the year closes, another auction is upon us. In another luxurious setting in Mumbai on Saturday, more women cricketers will experience a change in fortune. Only this time, the bidding won’t be as mad. Less than one-third of the collective salary cap from last time ( ₹17.65 crore) is available to spend for the five teams.
There will be less anxiety in the Indian camp as they play the second T20I against England in another part of town. Among the Indian squad members, only young left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap, fresh from her impressive displays for India A as well as the U-19 World Cup, is waiting for her first WPL contract.
103 other Indian players, most of them uncapped, are trying their luck. 61 overseas players, 15 of them from Associate nations, will also be keeping their fingers crossed. But as mini-auctions go, a maximum of only 30 from the lot will get a chance to make a name.
Expect Gujarat Giants (GG) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to engage in heavy bidding. Both teams, after a poor first edition, have released almost half their squad. Looking to rebuild, they have as many as 10 and 7 slots to fill respectively — including three overseas players each. More than half of the total spending power rests with them. GG have let go of their highest wicket-taker Kim Garth and pacer Annabel Sutherland; RCB have released pacer Megan Schutt to bolster their purse.
Mumbai Indians, slow starters at the Indian Premier League, got off to a winning start in the WPL. They are not looking to tinker much and have retained 13 players. Delhi Capitals, who finished second, are even happier and have only 3 slots left to fill with a maximum of 18 allowed in a squad. With MI, DC and UP Warriorz (UPW) having only one overseas slot vacant, it may limit the chances of any more than a handful of foreign players walking away with handsome contracts.
By releasing their expensive recruit Devika Vaidya ( ₹1.4 crore), Warriorz have given themselves plenty of purchasing power, with only 5 slots to fill and ₹4 crore in hand.
Currently out of national reckoning, Vaidya, with her all-round skills and wrist spin, will find takers again, possibly at a reduced price.
Nothing works more than recency bias in the auction room. For overseas picks, teams will rely heavily on performances in the recently concluded Women’s Big Bash (WBBL), the most prominent league in the world in terms of quality because of heavy Australian presence.
Unsold in the last auction, Sri Lankan batter Chamari Athapaththu aced the WBBL with 552 runs at a strike rate of 127.18. She finished as player of the series after coming in as an injury replacement. The left-handed batter has also had a smashing year for Sri Lanka, scoring unbeaten ODI hundreds against New Zealand and a 47-ball 80 in a T20I. Given that she also bowls off spin, a heavy bidding war is expected for Athapaththu.
Another unsold player from last season, England batter Danni Wyatt — a good player of spin — has served a timely reminder of her ability with a 47-ball 75 in the last T20I against India.
South African pacer Shabnim Ismail, who wasn't all that pleased with limited game time for UPW, is looking for a new team. Now a T20 freelancer after international retirement, she’s raring to go. GG and RCB may be keen to rope in the experienced pacer.
There are a total of 21 domestic slots that teams need to fill with enough money available for a few headline buys. Domestic power-hitting talent remains sought after and Karnataka’s young batter Vrinda Dinesh fits the bill. Her impressive show in the Emerging Nations Cup and the senior 50-over domestic competition could culminate in a big payday. There’s also uncapped wicket-keeper Uma Chettri who has spent some time with the Indian team.
An official announcement is awaited on the schedule for the second edition of the league, which will be played in February in a multi-city format in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
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