Yet some auction dynamics will be very different in the WPL. The top echelons of the women’s game has markedly more all-rounders than in the men’s game, rendering the need to prioritise players to help balance a side – by picking a specialist top-order batter who can also bowl – less acute.
Another salient difference with the IPL is that all teams are permitted five, rather than four, overseas players in their 11 for each game but only if one of these is from an Associate nation. Last year’s Fairbreak Global Invitational T20, a franchise tournament in the UAE, featured players from 35 different countries, a testament to the global possibilities in the women’s game. Several players from Thailand, comfortably the leading Associate nation in women’s cricket, are likely to win contracts. It is a glimpse of how, for all the inequality in the women’s game, it still has a chance to avoid repeating the mistakes of the men’s game, and building a structure more conducive to globalising the sport.
The international retirements of South Africa’s Lizelle Lee and West Indies’s Deandra Dottin while in their primes – freeing up more time for overseas leagues – is a reminder of how franchise cricket threatens the primacy of the international game. Both are highly likely to be signed up to the WPL. It highlights administrators’ need to find a way for international and domestic cricket to co-exist happily – before, as it now seems to be in the men’s game, it is too late, leaving much bilateral international cricket played between teams markedly short of full strength,
But while the 90 cricketers who attract bids will be the history-makers on Monday, they will merely be the first batch to benefit from the WPL. This year’s format – of five teams and 23 games – will rapidly expand: the sale of the first sides for a total of £475 million reflects the burgeoning interest in the women’s game. It will be little surprise if, before the decade is out, the WPL has its first dollar millionaire.