WPL will bring girl-jock charisma under the mainstream sun

WPL will have a meteoric rise like the IPL

A decade and a half after the IPL was launched, we finally have a WPL. How lovely it will be to see talented, strong, young women from all over the world take centre stage at the Brabourne and DY Patil Stadiums and compete fiercely for the honour of being the winner of the inaugural edition—and also, how refreshing. Because while we Indians have (slowly) got used to seeing young women command the white-hot spotlight, we never see them doing so without high heels, make-up, designer clothes and fancy hair styling.

Older women, sure—we have many fiery ladies in the public eye who are no-nonsense and business-like—from Mamata Banerjee and Smriti Irani to Farah Khan and Zoya Akhtar. But not young women. Young women in the spotlight in India are usually there because of their beauty creds—as pageant winners, models or actresses. Yes, there are some content creators, athletes and reality show contestants in the mix, but it is a small number. And even the actresses who do what Bollywood increasingly likes to call ‘bad-ass’ roles in the movies, fall into the rut of being just highly groomed and supremely photo-worthy in their promotional appearances, leaving most of the talking to their (usually baseball-capped and casually attired) male co-stars or directors.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

But in a glossy, high-buzz event like the WPL, all of India will be held in thrall, perhaps for the first time, by young women walking, not on a red carpet, but across a dusty pitch. Girls dressed in tracksuits with their hair in ponytails, sweaty girls, focused girls, grim-faced girls, flinging their arms and legs about, falling down, springing up, spitting and grinning and passing the Bechdel test gloriously (unless they are standing in a huddle and secretly bitching about a male umpire).

(Cadbury in an ahead-of-its-time ad that featured a gender reversal of its iconic dancing-on-the-pitch-to-celebrate-a-six-by-your-batter-partner ad, captured this development in our zeitgeist.)

Having lived in a girls boarding school right through high school, I have seen the charisma of the girl jock close up. These girls are calm, strong, natural leaders. They command respect and love effortlessly. And now finally, this girl-jock charisma is finding its place under the mainstream sun.

Best of all, it will not be a girl, or a few girls. It will be gangs of girls—with bench strengths of 15 to 18. Not pitched against each other, like in a beauty contest, but (to use the phrase Gatorade and Serena Williams made immortal) #sistersinsweat who rise or fall together.

Of course, this team bonding will be captured with full drama and larger-than-lifeness by the reliable IPL PR machine. And it will go a long way in erasing centuries of patriarchy-sponsored girl-on-girl hate.

Seeing how huge the IPL has become since its first innings in 2008, it is fair to say that the WPL will have an equally meteoric rise. Our girl children are gonna be spoilt for choice as far as role-models go. Our boy children, too.

It was Gloria Steinem who said, “We are slowly becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Successful, respected, kind, strong, fit, funny, good in bed.

As an eternal optimist, I am now hoping that men will return the compliment and slowly start becoming the women they wanted to marry. Delightful, deliciously well-groomed creatures who provide nourishment and succour, who cook like a dream and parent like guardian angels. Cheerleaders and support givers, whipper-uppers of hot cups of teas and chilled cocktails alike.

After all, the nicest thing about that Cadbury ad—after the batswoman hitting the six, of course—was how supportive her boy friend was.