The Women’s Premier League (WPL) is just one season old but has already made its mark in the sport by becoming the most valuable cricketing league behind the Indian Premier League.
It also happens to be the third most valuable franchise-based league across women’s sports in the world after the WNBA and Women’s Super League — which have been around for significantly longer than the one-season-old WPL.
The amount of wealth generated by WPL can be measured in its broadcast deals, the overall valuation of the five participating franchises — three of which also happen to have teams in the IPL — as well as the player salaries.
The league has also brought about a financial revolution in women’s cricket with star players such as Smriti Mandhana minting Rs 3.4 crore in the inaugural player auction, which had become something of a norm in the men’s game but had finally been introduced in the women’s version this year after years of waiting.
As for the player auction for the second edition that took place in Mumbai on Saturday, none of the 165 players that had been shortlisted managed to surpass Mandhana as the most expensive player in the league.
That, however, shouldn’t indicate a sudden austerity on the part of the franchise owners, who did end up shelling out crores for quite a few individuals including a couple of uncapped Indians.
Looking back at the events of the WPL 2024 Player Auction, we take a look at five of the most expensive buys:
Annabel Sutherland (Rs 2 crore, Delhi Capitals)
The 22-year-old all-rounder has been among the most impressive additions to the star-studded Australian team since making her debut in early 2020. She has played 23 ODIs and 22 T20Is for the Southern Stars since then along with three Tests, having smashed a century in the five-day and 50-over formats in addition to her exploits with the ball.
More recently, Sutherland, born into a cricketing family, has been in roaring form in the Big Bash League where she finished the fourth-highest wicket-taker (23) and was also handy with the bat (288 runs). It is that run of hers that might have driven up her price during the bidding process.
Kashvee Gautam (Rs 2 crore, Gujarat Giants)
Kashvee Gautam went from a little known player from Chandigarh to becoming an overnight sensation by becoming the most expensive uncapped player in the Women’s Premier League.
The seam-bowling all-rounder, who first made headlines by grabbing 10 wickets in an Under-19 Women’s One Day Trophy match in 2020, triggered a bidding war between Gujarat Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore. RCB pulled out and was replaced by the UP Warriorz, who finally gave up once Gautam’s price hit the 2-crore mark.
Vrinda Dinesh (Rs 1.3 crore, UP Warriorz)
The record for the most expensive uncapped player in the Women’s Premier League had briefly been set by Karnataka batter Vrinda Dinesh before she got overtaken by Kashvee Gautam. Dinesh however, did become the first uncapped player in the league to cross the crore-mark. She was among the leading run-scorers in the 2021-22 edition of the Women’s Senior One-Day Cup, received an opening bid from the GG, who entered a bidding war with RCB. UPW entered the race following Bangalore’s exit and eventually secured the batter for a sum of Rs 1.3 crore.
Shabnim Ismail (Rs 1.2 crore, Mumbai Indians)
For certain individuals, one need not necessarily look into recent records to judge his/her worth. South Africa speedster Shabnim Ismail, who happens to be the fastest bowler of her generation and the second quickest in women’s cricketing history behind Australia’s Kathryn Fitzpatrick, is among those individuals.
And the destruction unleashed by her with new and old ball alike has delivered results in the form of wickets. The Cape Town native had retired from international cricket earlier this year as the second-highest wicket-taker in ODIs (191) and the fourth-highest in T20Is (123). Eight of those 123 T20I wickets were collected in this year’s T20 World Cup in South Africa, indicating being on the wrong side of age had done little to wear her skills away with the ball.
Mumbai Indians sure had her in mind while hoping to build a formidable attack for their title defence next year, and did not give up at any stage during their bidding war for the Proteas seamer.
Phoebe Litchfield (Rs 1 crore, Gujarat Giants)
The second WPL Player Auction on Saturday got off to a flying start with Phoebe Litchfield the very first player to go under the hammer, and eventually going to the Gujarat Giants for Rs 1 crore after a brief bidding war. The 20-year-old opening batter made her international debut during the T20I series in India last December and has since collected 344 and 99 runs in ODIs and T20Is respectively. While it’s her average (49.14) that’s impressive in ODIs, what stands out in her T20I stats is her explosive strike rate of 220, which is something that the Giants management would have had in mind heading into the auction.