There could be Women’s Caribbean Premier League on the cricket calendar in the near future with the tournament’s chief operating officer indicating it is not a question of “if” but “when”.
Pete Russell was responding to questions raised by West Indies batsman Britney Cooper after her team was knocked out in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup, when she claimed they could have done better if they could also play as many matches a year as some of the more fancied teams like Australia, England and India.
“We need people in the CPL or corporate sponsors to back us and give us that push. We can’t do it all by ourselves. We need more. We need a mini-CPL,” she said.
The 2018 edition was the first standalone Women’s T20 World Cup hosted by the ICC, attracting promising audience numbers across three venues in Guyana, St. Lucia and Antigua. There is opportunity to ride on that and Russell is keen to do so. In fact, last year, he said the CPL and Cricket West Indies had held “informal” talks about holding a franchise T20 tournament for women.
“We have already discussed the feasibility of a women’s tournament with CWI or a women’s exhibition match, after the 2017 tournament, and have been discussing how we can make it work since then,” Russell told Newsday. “Any cricket tournament is a huge logistical challenge to arrange and there are a lot of questions that would need to be answered before we could commit to going ahead. But it is something that we are keen to have as part of the CPL programme, it is not question of ‘if’ it is a question of ‘when’.”
Currently the CPL only has the rights to host the men’s tournament and to organize a women’s version, a separate license needs to be procured by CWI. That makes the board the final authority on this issue and it remains open to investing in women’s T20s, especially keeping in mind its popularity.
West Indies women already have two domestic T20 tournaments in place – the CWI Regional Women’s Twenty20 Championship, and a franchise league in Trinidad and Tobago, called the Courts T20 Women’s Grand Slam Tournament, which had more than 10 regular members of the national side in action this July.
It is also understood that the CPL had invited West Indies women to play an exhibition T20 ahead of the men’s Eliminator in September. However, there were logistical issues considering they were playing a bilateral series against South Africa at the time. It is for the same reason a mini Women’s CPL, alongside the men’s edition, is unlikely, at least in 2019. West Indies women will be involved in a bilateral series with Australia in August-September. In any case, it is learnt the CWI wants a standalone women’s T20 tournament along the lines of Big Bash League, which has proven to be a success in Australia.
Russell is aware of the challenges in play but has no second thoughts about investing in women’s cricket. “We don’t see it as a risk, but we have shown over the last six years that we are willing to invest in cricket across the region. It is very early days in these discussions and we have a lot of hoops to jump through before this becomes a reality, but we have seen over the last few weeks just how fast the women’s game is growing and we would love to be a part of its ongoing success.”