Halfway into the league stage and there lies an intriguing question for teams to answer.
How do you beat this Mumbai Indians side?
They have been the definition of perfection in the tournament thus far. Be it their balance, the all-rounders, the form of the top players, or the form of domestic players, Mumbai have ticked nearly every box. It reflects in their results - victories by 143 runs, 9 wickets (34 balls remaining), 8 wickets (30 balls remaining) and 8 wickets (15 balls remaining). You can say they were tested to an extent in Match 10, but Harmanpreet Kaur and Nat Sciver-Brunt absorbed pressure which nearly gives them an indomitable look.
Gujarat Giants, however, will have to find an answer to this question. With only one win in four games, they simply have no other choice. They need wins under their belt, and this is probably not the right time for them to play Mumbai. But that is the nature of the beast. After a 10-wicket defeat in the last game, Gujarat have to pick themselves to play their most perfect game.
Things to watch out for
Gujarat’s team selection
Gujarat Giants baffled many when they benched Sophia Dunkley against Delhi Capitals. In only their preceding match, Dunkley played a high-impact match-winning knock of 65 runs from 28 balls. She contributed 54 off 22 balls to Gujarat’s powerplay score of 64/1. Yes, Laura Wolvaardt brings solidity to the side but Dunkley’s omission framed one of the most bizarre selection calls of the season.
Wolvaardt was out for 1 and Gujarat skittled to 28/5 within the first five overs, ultimately losing the game by 10 wickets. Given they average only 12.1 in the powerplay, less than half of the next worst side UP Warriorz (24.4), bringing Dunkley back while keeping Wolvaardt as well seems a no-brainer. But how do Gujarat achieve that?
The only solution seems to be benching the leg-spinner, Georgia Wareham. That would mean they will miss out on their only leg-spin option. Also, there are doubts about Sneh Rana’s participation. The stand-in captain injured her hand during the last game. Gujarat will have a few selection conundrums ahead of them heading into this game.
Mumbai’s depth still untested
Mumbai Indians have lost only 10 wickets in four games this season. That is only 2.5 wickets lost per match. Let that sink in for a second.
As brilliant as it is, it also means the depth in their batting is untested. Both Amanjot Kaur and Humaira Kazi, two specialist batters, have featured in each of Mumbai’s four wins without facing a single delivery. Mumbai lost five wickets in their opening game where Issy Wong and Pooja Vastrakar were promoted to score quick runs.
To ensure all parts of their engine are well-oiled, Mumbai would want their untested batters to have some time out in the middle. Having nearly sealed their spot for the playoffs, will Mumbai make any experimental changes to their batting order? Or will this be that one-off bad day for their watertight top order? If the likes of Amanjot and Kazi can see them through, a top-order failure won’t be such a bad thing for Mumbai.
Pitch and conditions
The wicket at the Brabourne Stadium had been conducive for strokeplay until it changed its nature for Match 10 between Mumbai and UP. The ball gripped and turned for the spinners.
DY Patil Stadium has assisted the pacers, and Brabourne has gone in favour of the slower bowlers. 62.5% of the total wickets at Brabourne are picked by the spinners in comparison to only 36.9% at the DY Patil Stadium.
Both sides have impactful spinners in their arsenal. Mumbai already have the best economy (6.7) and bowling average (10.8) for any spin bowling unit in the season. The similar numbers for Gujarat are 9.4 and 36.3. Mumbai’s left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque is the highest wicket-taker of the season. They also have the luxury of a leg-spinner in Amelia Kerr. It looks like Gujarat have another big hurdle to overcome in this fixture.
Yastika Bhatia’s poor record against off-spinners makes a strong case for Gujarat to start with Ashleigh Gardner. In W-T20Is since 2022, Yastika averages only 7.2 versus spin. Surprisingly, other franchises have not targetted the left-hander with this match-up. The Mumbai opener has faced only 12 balls of off-spin this season, scoring 8 runs off 12 balls without losing her wicket.
Also, Gardner has dismissed Hayley Matthews, the other Mumbai opener, thrice in her T20I career for only 31 runs.
Gardner did start the bowling the last time these two sides met. However, that was the first match of the season at this venue. Considering the wear and tear of the pitch and the proceedings of Match 10, Gardner will hold a chance of being more impactful with the new ball.
Benching Wareham seems to be the only option for Gujarat to bring in Dunkley. A bigger concern for Gujarat will be the fitness of their captain, Rana. Furthermore, they don’t have any other proven spinner in their squad. On a pitch that is expected to help spinners, Gujarat may have to play without two of their regular spinners.
Sabbhineni Meghana, Sophia Dunkley, Harleen Deol, Laura Wolvaardt, Ashleigh Gardner, Dayalan Hemalatha, Sushma Verma (wk), Kim Garth, Sneh Rana ( c ), Tanuja Kanwar, Mansi Joshi
There is no news on Pooja Vastrakar’s injury. Knowing their top position in the table, Mumbai may continue to rest her, giving Dhara Gujjar another game.
Yastika Bhatia (wk), Hayley Matthews, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet Kaur ( c ), Amelia Kerr, Dhara Gujjar, Amanjot Kaur, Humaira Kazi, Issy Wong, Saika Ishaque, Jintimani Kalita