CBP Ep.3: Full-fledged Women’s IPL, anybody? with Lisa Sthalekar

Lisa Sthalekar is a World Cup winner. ©Getty Images

In 2008, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) began with the Indian Premier League, which, since then, took up most of the real estate on print and broadcast during Indian summers. It was the first of a kind T20 league – the ‘unofficial’ Indian Cricket League notwithstanding – where domestic as well as international players played together. What spurred the start of the new competition? India’s (men) win in the inaugural T20 World Cup (then World T20).

Fast forward nine years. India’s women’s side made it to a jam-packed World Cup final at Lord’s in 2017. They were on course to lift their first silverware only to fall short by a whisker. That started talks of having a competition on the lines of the IPL for women.

In 2018, the BCCI held an exhibition game for women ahead of the IPL Qualifiers, where foreign and Indian players participated. Looking at the response, there were three teams in place for 2019, which played two round-robin matches before the finals.

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All this was taking place while the clamour for having a full-fledged competition for women was becoming louder. It was expected that the Women’s T20 Challenge was to have four teams in 2020, more so after India’s strong show in the Women’s T20 World Cup, where they made the final. However, the coronavirus pandemic meant everything came to a standstill.

It is believed that the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), which has seen five seasons so far, has played a big role in Australia churning out match-winners as regularly as sugar from a sugarcane mill. Lisa Sthalekar, the former player and now broadcaster, played in the first season and continued to commentate later on.

We spoke to her about how the WBBL came into existence and whether she thinks a Women’s IPL would have a similar effect on Indian cricket. The chat also covers the impact of such leagues on the development and growth of the players as people – understanding different cultures and absorbing better habits outside one’s own comfort zone.