Thousands cheered on the inaugural match of the Women’s Premier League cricket (WPL) tournament in India on Saturday after a star-studded opening ceremony in what experts have billed as a game-changing moment for women’s sport.
The WPL has generated hundreds of millions of dollars even before the first ball was bowled and found a boisterous support base in the cricket-mad nation.
Bollywood stars Kiara Advani and Kriti Sanon opened the new league in front of a jubilant crowd that nearly packed out a 55,000-capacity stadium in India’s business hub Mumbai.
Teenage fan Anshu Singh told AFP from the stands that she was excited at the prospect of a successful women’s tournament to match the lucrative Indian Premier League in the years ahead.
“We are very grateful to see women playing cricket at a very big level,” she added.
Excited fans wearing Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Giants jerseys lined up outside the stadium and chanted team slogans hours before the match began.
The WPL has earned India’s cricket board a shade under $700 million in franchise and media rights, making it the second-most valuable domestic women’s sports competition globally after US professional basketball.
Some players will earn more for the three-week tournament than they normally would in an entire year and Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur said the league would benefit both cricketers and the sport.
“The young girls who have not got enough chances, for them it is a great platform where they can express themselves,” she told reporters on Friday.
“I think going forward, for Indian cricket this tournament will help us to create a good team.”
James Savage of the Deloitte Sports Business Group told AFP this week that the WPL was an unprecedented investment that reflected the “huge growth potential” of women’s cricket.