India’s Mandhana the crown jewel in Australia-dominated inaugural Women’s Premier League auction

India’s Mandhana the crown jewel in Australia-dominated inaugural Women’s Premier League auction
Smriti Mandhana at the Women's Tri-Series, 3rd T20I match, between India and West Indies at Buffalo Park on 23 January 2023 in East London, South Africa. (Photo: Michael Sheehan / Gallo Images)

The inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League is scheduled to be played in Mumbai from 4 to 26 March. The player acquisition on Monday, by the five teams involved in the historic tournament, made it that much more real for the pioneering players.

It was a watershed moment for many of the cricketers involved in the inaugural Women’s Premier League auction. Unusually, the auction took place while the majority of the affected players are deep within an ongoing T20 World Cup.

A handful of female cricket players involved in the bidding by the five teams that make up the upcoming maiden edition of the women’s equivalent of the globally popular Indian Premier League ended Monday with the largest paychecks of their careers.

India opener Smriti Mandhana, England all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt and Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner were the biggest winners of the bidding process.

Mandhana, who has risen to global superstar status since making her T20 international debut for India as a 17-year-old back in 2013, fetched the highest fee at Monday’s auction.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) splurged 34-million Indian rupees (R7.3-million) to secure the services of the left-handed batter. The amount was a huge chunk of RCB’s R26-million purse for the day’s proceedings.

However, the Bangalore-based side still managed to rope in the services of experienced Australian and New Zealand duo Ellyse Perry (R3.7-million) and Sophie Devine (R1.1-million). A development that RCB’s director of cricket, Mike Hesson, was ecstatic about.

“It’s a dream result for us to get Mandhana, Perry and Devine,” Hesson told journalists. “Smriti has got plenty of captaincy experience and is familiar with the Indian conditions. So, it’s highly likely (she’ll be captain).”

Of the 400-plus players who went under the hammer (17 of whom were South African), England’s Sciver-Brunt and Australia’s Gardner were joint second on the bidding list. The two all-rounders will each receive just under R7-million for the work they will do for Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Giants, respectively, next month.

“She probably won’t like all the attention [that will come with her price tag],” said England skipper Heather Knight of the dangerous Sciver-Brunt. “She’s very humble. She’s just very good at cricket.”

Knight herself will be joining Mandhana and company at RCB after being picked up for R874,808 by the team that already has the pre-tournament tag of favourites.

Knight’s Indian counterpart Harmanpreet Kaur also expressed her elation at the inception of the tournament, and the overall success of the inaugural auction.

“It is a game-changer for all of us,” said Kaur after she was bought for R3.9-million and immediately made skipper by the Mumbai Indians. “This will entirely change women’s cricket, and not just in India. We all are looking forward to that.”

Marizanne Kapp, left, and Shabnim Ismail from South Africa hug as teammates Ayabonga Khaka and Masabata Klaas arrive to celebrate after Kapp caught Natalie Sciver from England off the bowling of Ismail during the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup semifinal match between South Africa and England at Hagley Oval on 31 March 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo: Peter Meecham / Getty Images)

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South African equation

From the South Africans who had put their names on the list, prolific all-rounder Marizanne Kapp was the most expensive acquisition from a local perspective.

The highly rated Proteas star cost the Delhi Capitals R3.3-million, with electric seamer and Kapp’s partner in bowling destruction for South Africa, Shabnim Ismail, earning around R2.2-million for her move to the UP Warriorz.

There was also room for the inclusion of Proteas skipper Dane van Niekerk, who was dropped by the national team selectors for the ongoing World Cup after not meeting the team’s fitness requirements.

The all-rounder pocketed R659,856 as she was roped in to form part of the star-studded RCB side. Proteas vice-captain Chloe Tryon was recruited for the same amount by the Mumbai Indians.   

Despite putting up their names for the auction, retired Proteas stars Lizelle Lee and Mignon du Preez did not even get picked to be part of the bidding.

Surprisingly, the likes of South African spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba, who is in blistering form at the ongoing World Cup, and Proteas star opener Laura Wolvaardt went unsold at the auction.

As did their national teammates, Suné Luus, Tazmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk and Ayabonga Khaka.

Meanwhile, reigning T20 world champions Australia occupied the most international spots, claiming 14 from the 30 that were available.

“It’s as exciting for Australian cricket as it is for cricket all over the world. I think our girls are excited about it, but focused on the job at hand while we’re here in South Africa as well,” said Australia coach Shelley Nitschke. DM


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