By: Shubham Ghosh
Several of the world’s top women cricketers earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for their services in the inaugural Women’s Premier League auction on Monday, with India’s attacking batter Smriti Mandhana leading the way on $410,000 (£339,914).
The left-handed 26-year-old was the first lot on the block at the sale in Mumbai, and was the object of a bidding war.
Nita Ambani, who is the wife of Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and owns the Mumbai Indians franchise, placed several bids for her services before the Royal Challengers Bangalore prevailed.
The money-spinning Indian Premier League has transformed the fortunes of cricket globally, and the women’s version could rapidly become one of the world’s biggest money-spinners in women’s sport.
Australian all-rounder Ash Gardner was the second most expensive player in the first batch of sales, with Gujarat Giants paying $387,000 (£320,846) for her.
Royal Challengers Bangalore also bagged Ellyse Perry of Australia for $205,000 (£169,557) and Sophie Devine of New Zealand for her base price of $60,000 (£49,744).
England’s Sophie Ecclestone went to UP Warriorz for $220,000 (£182,393).
The franchise rights for the five women’s teams were auctioned off in January for $572.5 million (£475 million), while media rights for the first five seasons of the new league were sold to Viacom18 for $116.7 million (£97 million).
The two deals made the WPL the second most valuable women’s league after the WNBA women’s basketball league, according to local media reports.
The WNBA, which held its inaugural session in 1997, is reportedly valued at $1 billion (£829 million).
A total of 449 players were up for auction on Monday but only up to 90 players will secure spots in the tournament, with the five franchises buying a maximum of 18 players each.
The WPL comes amid growing efforts to expand the women’s game globally and Australia’s Gardner said ahead of the auction that she had dreamt about the event.
“That’s how much I’ve been thinking about it,” she said at the T20 World Cup in South Africa.
“I think it’s a huge moment for women’s cricket and to see that the money that’s been put into women’s cricket over in India to ultimately have that global impact.”
The WPL league will be held in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai from March 4 to 26.