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A column by Harish Bhat on the Tata group's support of WPL, Women's Premier League cricket

Tata WPL: The Next Frontier in Women’s Sports

Continuing the group’s support of sports as a force of transformation, says Harish Bhat, former Brand Custodian, Tata Sons.

January 2024 | Harish Bhat     |     833 words     |     3-minute read

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When the Women’s Premier League (WPL) was announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earlier this year, we were immediately excited by its possibilities. One of our senior marketing colleagues in Tata Motors called me to say that Tata, as the country’s most valuable brand, should certainly be associated with this tournament. “It is the start of a new era,” he said, “and WPL will make a huge difference to sports in our country.”

This difference became clear during the opening match of Tata WPL, held at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. As the captains of the five women’s teams took centre stage with the glittering trophy, a huge round of cheering burst out from the packed stadium. The applause continued throughout the match, and then across all the 20 exciting league matches that led to the Tata WPL finals. Just a few months earlier, gender equity in Indian sports had taken a big step forward when BCCI had announced match fee equal pay for men and women cricketers. Now, it was clear that with Tata WPL, the next frontier in women’s sports had actually emerged.

Leading the way

At the Tata group, we are proud to be title sponsors for the WPL, right from the inaugural edition in 2023. To be associated with such a pioneering move feels just right for a group whose association with sports goes back more than a 100 years. Way back in 1920, the second chairman of Tata Sons, Sir Dorabji Tata, had sponsored India’s first ever team to the Olympics, driven by a desire that his nation should be represented at the world’s greatest sporting meet. More than a century later, Tata WPL has the potential to be a similarly transformative movement.

The results from the inaugural edition of the tournament reflect this promise. It is estimated that the cumulative viewership of Tata WPL this year has exceeded 100 million people, which is an amazing number for the very first year. In fact, Tata WPL has delivered the highest viewership for any women’s event globally, and has already become the second most viewed sports tournament in India, after Tata IPL.

To be associated with such a pioneering move feels just right for a group whose association with sports goes back more than a 100 years.

There was fantastic cricket of very high quality on display. Whether it was Meg Lanning, who scored the most runs (345 runs) or Shafali Verma and Sophie Devine, who hit the highest number of sixes (13 each) or Hayley Matthews and Sophie Ecclestone, who took the most wickets (16 each), the matches were a testament to the prowess of some of the finest women cricketers in the world. Their performances and achievements will surely go towards inspiring millions of young girls to pursue their aspirations in life.

No wonder the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar specifically called out WPL as one of his most desired developments. Speaking to Sportstar magazine on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he said, “The big change that I had wanted to happen — equal opportunities — has already begun with the WPL, that too in grand style.” He went on to say that WPL would take women’s cricket to a different level by opening doors for so many young girls.

There are many stories of how Tata WPL opened such doors. For instance, Saika Ishaque, who grew up in an economically challenged family in Kolkata was on the verge of quitting cricket a few years ago and was also lacking in confidence. Thanks to the help provided by national selector Mithu Mukherjee and former Bengal spinner Shiv Sagar Singh, she continued her training and was eventually selected by the Mumbai Indians team for Tata WPL this year. During Tata WPL, she grew in confidence and blossomed into a brilliant bowler for her team, taking key wickets in multiple matches. Tata WPL gave her national recognition, and this is now likely to open many more doors for her on the national and international scene.

Making a mark

At the Tata group, three of our companies joined together in sponsoring Tata WPL 2023 — Tata Motors, Tata Capital and Tata Sons. Both stadiums where the matches were played — DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai and the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai — came alive with powerful Tata presence, through the handsome Tata Safari Dark vehicle, the Tata Capital fan box, team jerseys bearing the Tata Capital signage, the Safari Powerful Striker award and the Tata WPL trophy carrying beautiful purple ribbons proudly bearing the Tata logo. 

Our brands obtained significant mileage in millions of Indian homes through this unique sponsorship. But I think all of us felt even happier that we had sponsored a cause that is likely to transform women’s sports in our country.

Harish Bhat was Brand Custodian, Tata Sons till January 2024. Pictures and footage courtesy BCCI.

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