The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) governing body has confirmed plans to launch a women’s edition of its Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 competition at the beginning of next year.

In a letter sent to the regional cricket authorities, the BCCI board’s president Sourav Ganguly said: “The BCCI is currently working on the much-awaited Women’s IPL. We are expecting to start the first season early next year.”

Details of the competition’s launch will be discussed at the governing body’s annual general meeting in Mumbai on October 18.

In August, it was reported the BCCI had earmarked a window from late February to March 2023 for the inaugural women’s edition of the franchise tournament – between the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa from February 9 to 26 and the men’s IPL that has been scheduled (tentatively) between March 25 to May 28.

The Women's IPL will follow on from the Women's Hundred in the UK and the Women's Big Bash League in Australia as major domestic tournaments for female cricketers.

For the past few years, while the men's IPL has gone from strength to strength in terms of international recognition and its finances, women's cricket in the country has had to make do with the Women's T20 Challenge, a three-team tournament held over one week or less. The men's IPL earlier this year involved 10 teams and lasted around two months. 

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According to Cricbuzz, the BCCI will be issuing a tender for the ownership of the Women’s IPL franchises, with six teams up for grabs in the first edition of the competition and more potentially available depending on interest.

The board will also issue a tender for the media rights to the competition.

In June, the auction of TV and digital rights for the 2023-27 cycle of the IPL concluded with the four available rights packages bought for $6.2 billion, with the deal worth 196% more than the last rights agreement, struck in 2017 by Star and its digital affiliate Hotstar and covering the 2018-22 cycle, which amounted to $2.55 billion.

Pay-television Star retained domestic TV rights in the Indian subcontinent while Viacom18 secured domestic digital rights and international rights.

The appetite for women’s cricket in India and a women’s IPL has hit a high following a sequence of good performances by the Indian team in global competitions in recent years. Earlier this year, the team won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK.

The national team also reached the final of the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup and the 2017 Women’s World Cup, while India has been awarded hosting rights to the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2025.

Only this weekend (September 24), meanwhile, the team completed a 3-0 One-Day International series victory over England.

Several senior players, including captain Harmannpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, have strongly supported launching the league. Legendary former Indian captain Mithali Raj has previously said she would come out of retirement to play in the tournament, should it be launched.

Along with his announcement of the IPL, Ganguly said the BCCI will also host the first-ever U-15 girls’ tournament to create a pathway to the U-19 World Cup and future International Cricket Council events.

He said: “We are glad to introduce a girls U-15 tournament from this season. Women’s cricket has seen phenomenal growth across the world and our national team has been performing well.

“This new tournament will create a pathway for our girls to play at the international level.”

Image:  Justin Setterfield/Getty Images