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"To be or not to be" - Question Giants need to ask themselves

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Last updated on 15 Mar 2024 | 11:26 AM
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"To be or not to be" - Question Giants need to ask themselves

It's crucial that Gujarat Giants do some brutal soul-searching ahead of the third season because, without that, the WPL runs the risk of being labelled a four-team tournament

“To be or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles…”

When Hamlet asks himself this in William Shakespeare’s play 'Hamlet', he’s in the midst of an epic existential dilemma. Should he succumb to his wretched and “outrageous” life and just end himself, or fight against the “sea of troubles” that plague his existence? 

On the surface, it might seem like a question between life and death. However, on a subjective level, it’s also a question of how you wish to live your remaining life. Do you wish to be wretched and just hope for the misery to end? Or do you actually get up and do something about it? 

The second consecutive wooden spoon holders of the Women’s Premier League (WPL), Gujarat Giants, are at a similar juncture of their journey. After a disastrous first season, they built almost their entire team from scratch and got in a new head coach, Michael Klinger. But alas, a change in personnel doesn’t imply an automatic reversal in fortunes. The problem lies deeper.

Two dreadful seasons in, “to be or not to be” is a question the Giants need to ask themselves. They need to decide how they wish to play in the WPL because, as of now, their presence hasn’t been impactful enough to be remembered, forget being celebrated.

The pandora box of problems began for the Giants when they suddenly lost belief in 11 of their players from the first season. To lose trust so easily in the players they picked is enough to tell you about the environment within the setup. 

However, the mini-auction gave them a good chance to rebuild their squad, and they managed to do that to an extent. However, their ace pick, allrounder Kashvee Gautam, sustained an injury a short while later and was ruled out of the tournament. The Giants drafted in another allrounder Sayali Satghare but they played her only once, and that also as a concussion substitute for Dayalan Hemalatha.

With the other Indian-capped picks they had bought and the already existing overseas batting core of Laura Wolvaardt, Beth Mooney, and Ash Gardner, this was a good squad on paper. However, it doesn’t matter how good a squad you have if they are not led in the right manner. 

Sneh Rana was captain last season after their skipper Beth Mooney left due to an injury. However, in 2024, Mooney, for most of the season, felt like a reluctant skipper. An example of that was the game against Mumbai Indians in Delhi.

It’s the easiest thing in the whole world for a skipper to look clueless when Harmanpreet Kaur bats like that against you. However, what was worrisome was Mooney's lack of field changes or conversations with bowlers while sixes were being hit for fun. Mooney just stood behind the wickets with a blank expression. 

It didn’t help that she had a poor first four games with the bat, where she averaged only 15 with a strike rate of 101. In the next four, she made a big comeback and ended the season with 285 runs at an average of 47.5, striking at 141.08. Alas, the damage was done for her team until then. 

We might have to look at a different captain next year, haven’t done a heap. It’s been hard on me.” Mooney said after a humiliating loss in their last game of the season. 

“We have got a great coach and excellent management. We have a few pieces, and we will need to string them together much better in the next season,” she added. 

Well, that doesn’t sound good at all, does it? It gets even worse when you note the contradictory statements given by their head coach, Michael Klinger, who said that he “certainly don’t want to see there being a huge turnover like there was last year because we need some stability and continuity as well.”

A reluctant captain. A contradicting coach. And you wonder how come Gujarat felt like such a mess once again? 

The mess makes even more sense when you know that Gujarat had the least average runs/wicket (20.3) amongst all the five teams. The reason isn’t limited to the fact that their top order succumbed early in the first four games. It also has to do with the batting order changing, creating an instability that was hard to miss with the Giants' batting.

Phoebe Litchfield had an absolutely stellar tour of India in the white ball formats a few months back. In the T20s, she batted at number 5 and 6, scoring 84 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 147.4. She was given a set role and played that to perfection despite having played in the top order for most of her life. 

However, in the WPL, she kept shifting between number 3 and 4 positions in the batting order and failed to create an impact at both positions. The decisiveness in her stroke play was suddenly amiss. Just 108 runs at an average of 13.5 pretty much sum up the misery she suffered during the eight innings she batted. 

More than Litchfield, Ashleigh Gardner’s form hurt Gujarat. Their top order averaged only 13 for the first four games, and Gardner couldn't rebuild the innings after them. Even when the top 3 scored in the Delhi leg, Gardner’s batting display remained woebegone. The main issue there was her affliction against the deliveries turning away from her.

While in 2023, Gardner was striking at 153.8 and 150 against leg and left arm spinners, in 2024, she struck at just 26.7 and 125 against the two spinner types that turn the ball away from her.

Her proclivity to throw her bat at anything tossed to her, combined with the slight help available in the pitches for the spinners, and resulted in a sitting wicket as Gardner was plucked on six instances by the two bowling types mentioned above.

Meanwhile, their Indian core strength suffered quite a bit as Harleen Deol also had to leave the tournament due to an injury. Dayalan Hemalatha worked wonders at number 3 initially, but even she failed to make the most of her chances there. 

If not for the individual performances of players like Shabnam Shakil, Tanuja Kanwer, Laura Wolvaardt, and Kathryn Bryce to an extent, the results could have been even worse for the Giants. 

Two seasons are done, and yet, the team with the legendary Mithali Raj and Nooshin Al Khadeer (the head coach of the Under 19 World Cup winning side) in their management is the side that has impacted the tournament the least.

All the pre-season expectations of them being able to manage the Indian core and overseas resources together were left unfulfilled. What’s worse was that in many instances on and off the field (social media posts, etc.), the overseas contingent seemed to be interacting only with themselves, and so did the Indian players.

When you compare it with a team like Royal Challengers Bengaluru or the Delhi Capitals, where the bond between overseas and Indian players has propelled those teams forward, you realise how big a job the Giants management have in front of them. 

From a reluctant captain to a mismanaged batting order and under-utilized resources, the Pandora's box of problems is absolutely full for the Giants. 

It’s time Gujarat Giants ask themselves seriously the question, “to be or not to be”. It’s time they realise that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for them in terms of individual performances, but that’s also very bleak. 

It’s crucial that they see that light and keep the hope of a comeback alive for the next season. After all, the WPL can’t afford to be a four-team tournament for two seasons in a row. 

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