From WCAI to WPL: Tracing the Journey of Women’s Cricket in India

The India women’s team achieved a significant milestone in 1976 when they played their inaugural Test against the West Indies in Bangalore, and later secured their first international victory at the Moin-ul-Haq Stadium in Patna.

BCCI photo of Mithali Raj with the India women's ODI cricket squad

The Women’s Premier League (WPL), which will begin play on March 4 in India, is anticipated to significantly advance women’s cricket in that nation. We will examine the causes that led to the establishment of women’s cricket in India and how it grew in popularity over time as we dive into its past.

The genesis of women’s cricket in India can be traced back to 1973 when its founder-cum-secretary, Mahendra Kumar Sharma, registered the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) under the Societies Act of Lucknow.

In 1973, Premla Chavan, a former Congress MP and the mother of the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, became the first president of WCAI. The same year, WCAI was granted membership to the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC). Additionally, a women’s inter-state national tournament began in 1973 with three teams – Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh.

The second edition of the championship took place in Varanasi later that year, and the tournament featured eight teams. In the following year, the third championship was held in Calcutta and the number of teams participating increased to 14, including representation from all states.

The first Rani Jhansi Trophy, an inter-zonal limited overs competition conducted in Kanpur in 1974, attracted a lot of interest from the cricketing community. The trophy for the inter-university competition that was held in Rajkot the following year was named after CK Nayudu, the first captain of the men’s team for India. With the help of this effort, junior and sub-junior competitions for young cricket players under the ages of 15 and 19, respectively, might be held.

The champions of every zone were selected to participate in the Indira Priyadarshini Trophy, while the victorious team at the national level went on to compete against the Rest of India for the Rau Cup. The National Institute of Sports in Patiala was a key partner in organizing these events, and the women cricketers were expected to receive guidance from the renowned Lala Amarnath during their training camps.

In 1975, the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) organized the inaugural bilateral women’s cricket series, which featured the Australian Under-25 team playing a three-Test series against the Indian team in Pune, Delhi, and Calcutta.

For each Test in the Australian series, India had three captains – Ujjwala Nikam, Sudha Shah, and Srirupa Bose. Following this series, New Zealand visited India to play five three-day matches in Calcutta, New Delhi, Lucknow, Pune, and Bangalore.

When the India women’s team faced the West Indies in their first Test match in Bangalore in 1976, they made great history. In the Moin-ul-Haq Stadium in Patna, they subsequently earned their first international triumph, which was a significant accomplishment for the squad.

In 1978, India hosted the inaugural Women’s ODI World Cup under the WCAI. This was a remarkable accomplishment considering that the governing organizations at the time were heavily reliant on private and public funding. India also hosted the 1997 Women’s ODI World Cup, which included 11 countries and saw Australia defeat England in the championship game in front of almost 80,000 spectators at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

Once Sharma left WCAI in 1978, there was an issue with financing. After that, there was the issue of the Indian women’s team not playing any international games between the 1978 and 1982 World Cups.

India ultimately won its first ODI series in 1995, during the centenary celebrations of New Zealand cricket, after years of effort and difficulty, including missing the 1988 ODI World Cup owing to administrative indifference. participated in the South Africa 2005 Women’s ODI World Cup.

Up until the BCCI took over the control of women’s cricket in 2006, the WCAI remained in operation for the following ten years. What, then, did the BCCI modify about women’s cricket in India?

Air travel was substituted for second class coach travel in unreserved railroads. Dorm rooms became a means to remain at the hotel, and the chance to play on nicer fields began to be offered in place of the substandard ones.

Players got match fees and daily allowances in addition to brand sponsorships, going from being paid little to currently making money from playing cricket. Players could concentrate more on the game and their health since there were umpires, video analysts, and cricket started to become professionally run.

The WPL would not have been on the verge of becoming a reality in a couple of weeks without the WCAI and the early moves to establish women’s cricket in India.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *