The women cricketers can also dish out excellent fare on the field of play when it comes to the shortest format. This was underscored during the second edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) which concluded on Sunday.

There were close games, high octane batting, intelligent bowling, sixes and wickets galore and near sell out crowds. Moreover, the interest generated was much higher than the inaugural edition. Cricket fans keenly followed the proceedings, almost with the same intensity that they follow the Indian Premier League (IPL).

And what the men haven’t been able to do the women have done. Finalists in 2009, 2011 and 2016 IPL the Royal Challengers Bangalore men couldn’t clinch the ultimate prize. The RCB women did it in their first final itself getting the better of Delhi Capitals by eight wickets and three balls to spare at the Arun Jaitley stadium in New Delhi.

And as captain of the side Smriti Mandana accomplished what her male counterparts like Anil Kumble (captain in 2009), Daniel Vettori (2011) and Virat Kohli (2016) couldn’t do. Kohli was quick to join the team’s celebratory spirit through a video call and expressed his wholehearted support by calling the squad `Superwomen’ in his Instagram post. Incidentally in the five-team league competition DC had won both their matches against RCB.

The successful conduct of the WPL nicely sets the stage for the IPL which commences on March 22. The latter part of the IPL will be conducted during the general elections but the BCCI has categorically stated that the cash rich competition will not be shifted out for India.

Twice before, some matches of the IPL were shifted to South Africa and the UAE as they clashed with the elections but putting to rest any such speculation in this regard BCCI secretary Jay Shah has clarified that there will be no last-minute change of venue outside the country. “No, it won’t be moved overseas’’ Shah has been quoted as saying, a view echoed by IPL chairman Arun Dhumal.

India is where it all started in 2008 with Brendon McCullum giving the star-studded tournament just the start it needed with that electrifying innings of 158 not out off just 73 balls for Kolkata Knight Riders against Royal Challengers Bangalore. So it is just as well that this year’s competition too will be held in this country.

And on the eve of the 17th edition it never fails to amaze that the popularity of the high-profile glamour laced competition remains undiminished. One would have thought that with the amount of cricket being played around the world, especially the T-20 variety, interest might have dimmed at least a wee bit.

On the contrary intense discussions have already commenced as to the chances of the ten competing sides and how the inclusion of this star or that can make a difference to a team even as the loyalty of the fans towards their franchisees is something to be seen to be believed.

There is little doubt that the IPL has changed the world of cricket. It kicked off the mushrooming of T-20 leagues all around the cricketing world but none of these can match the IPL in the manner in which it is conducted, its popularity, its marketing reach and player participation. It continues to mesmerise cricket followers internationally.

Over the years the three letters IPL have become a byword for cricketainment – the phrase first used during its inaugural edition. It was easy to give it that colourful sobriquet with Bollywood stars and leading industrialists being associated with the teams in various ways.

Sure it has not been without its share of unseemly acts, controversies and scandals. The tournament itself has been marred by match fixing and spot fixing allegations. But it has also brought in a lot of money into the game, players, advertisers and sponsors are as keen as ever to be associated with the IPL and it has done a lot to make T-20 a format of skill, of tactics and strategy.

The IPL is no more slambang cricket where batsmen make merry and bowlers are willing slaves. It is no more just about big hits and the ball sailing into the stratosphere. It is also about bowlers choking the batsmen and keeping them on a leash.

If the batsmen have been innovative, so have the bowlers. Over the years the format has evolved into a keen duel for supremacy between bat and ball whatever its detractors might say about “T20 not being cricket”. That criticism can now be dismissed and the shortest format is an integral part of the game.

It does not matter whether the IPL is held in India, South Africa or the UAE, it does not matter if it is held in near empty stadiums as a result of Covid – 19, it does not matter if one half is played in one country and the other half months later in another country. A break like that would have an adverse effect on any event but not when it comes to the IPL. The 2021 edition was a case in point. It started in India in April amidst some misgivings because of the Covid situation.

Twenty-nine matches into the competition and with cases on the rise it became necessary to postpone it. That was roughly halfway through the IPL but there was never any thought of not going through the remainder of the tournament.

The IPL governing council always kept their eyes on an open window and found one in September – October in the UAE. Around 4-1/2 months after game no. 29 played, game no. 30 was underway, the competition resumed and was conducted successfully with fans, franchisees and sponsors all pleased as punch.

When the IPL was inaugurated in 2008 the enthusiasm knew no bounds. Everyone associated with cricket knew it would be a trendsetter given its blend of cricket and entertainment with super stars and prominent industrialists closely associated with it.

No less a personality like Sachin Tendulkar never one for hyperbole gushed: “it will be a super hit.’’ Brett Lee predicted “it will create history’’ and went on to add “if we look back in ten years time this is going to be a massive landmark in cricket.’’

Adam Gilchrist on his part was firmly of the view that after 15 years when people looked back they would say it is the most important thing to have happened in cricket. “I don’t think cricket will ever be the same again’’ he said adding, “In time to come people will say that the IPL changed the direction of cricket”.

It is interesting to go through such statements 16 years later, particularly as they have come true. The cynics might say it is all about money but then money is good for the game. After all if the BCCI makes a pile it has also pooled back a lot into the game. For a start ask the long retired and first class cricketers who have benefited immensely by its largesse.