The atmosphere prior to the start of a new cricket league is always filled with delirium. The SA20 that started this year is a prime example of it. Yes, it was famed because the Indian Premier League owners were involved, but there was a sense of excitement
Well, folks, buckle up! There is one more league coming your way. The all-awaited Women’s Indian Premier League is here. For ages, the talk of the town was when the BCCI was going to start WPL. TADA!! The dates are confirmed, and the teams are set to joust for supremacy from March 4th.
Gujarat Giants and Mumbai Indians will face off in the curtain raiser at DY Patil Sports Academy, Navi Mumbai. Harmanpreet Kaur will lead Mumbai and Beth Mooney will be at the helm for Gujarat.
The Mumbai franchise has been the most successful team in the Men’s IPL, at least in terms of trophy counts. One of the reasons behind that is their think tank. They have followed a similar pattern for the Women as well. With big names like Charlotte Edwards (head coach) and Jhulan Goswami (bowling coach and mentor), can they duplicate their success with the Women’s team? Let’s wait and watch.
Also read: History beckons women's sport as WPL set to shatter stereotypes
On the other hand, Gujarat have gone in with an all-Australian look. Four out of the six overseas players are Australians, and rightfully so. Australia Women’s team has been the most dominant team, and there is no harm in picking match winners. None better than Mithali Raj (mentor) and Rachael Haynes (head coach) know it better.
All-in-all, it is going to be a cracker of a start. Two modern great players, Harmanpreet and Mooney, against each other as captains, two Indian stalwarts, Mithali and Jhulan, as mentors, and last but not the least, an Ashes tussle between Edwards and Haynes. Wuhuu! Mouthwatering, isn’t it?
Things to watch out for
The combo of Mooney and Gardner
Two World Cup-winning players in one side, that’s a massive boost for any team.
Mooney, in the 2023 edition, scored 206 runs at a strike rate of 117.7 and an average of 51.5. She was the third-highest run-scorer in the tournament. On the other hand, Ashleigh Gardner was the player-of-the-series in that edition. She scored 110 runs at a strike rate of 119.6 and picked up 10 wickets at an economy of 6.3.
It's just not this WC, since 2022, these two have been in sublime form. In all W-T20s, Mooney has scored 1135 runs at a strike rate of 126.4 and a staggering average of 49.3, in this period. Whereas Gardner has 700 runs at an even better strike rate of 144.9 and an average of 38.9. To go with that, Gardner has bagged 49 wickets at an economy of 6.1 and a bowling strike rate of 15.7.
Nat Sciver-Brunt, the only power hitter in the top seven for Mumbai
Mumbai have a good batting set-up. With Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet, Haley Matthews, and Amelia Kerr, there is no shortage of runs. However, these players aren’t power hitters. Harmanpreet as well is more of a batter who takes a bit of time before she goes gung-ho.
Among their top seven, Nat Sciver-Brunt is the only player who has the ability to strike at a good pace. In the 2023 edition of WC, Sciver scored 216 runs at a whopping strike rate of 141.2. Among batters who had scored 75+ runs in the series, only Bernadine Bezuidenhout (155.2) had a better strike rate than her. A lot lies on the shoulders of Sciver in the power department.
Bowling units lack powerplay wicket-takers
Both teams have the perfect mix of all-rounders. However, there are very few bowlers who can make an early impact.
From both teams, in W-T20Is since 2021, only Gardner for Gujarat and Hayley Matthews for Mumbai, have bagged 10+ wickets in this phase. Apart from that, most of their bowlers are either new or impact less in the first six overs. A department in which both teams are lagging.
Pitch and conditions
In the two W-T20Is that were played at Dr DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai, it was a belter of a pitch for the batters. There were plenty of boundaries and sixes, 93 fours and 18 sixes, to be precise. In those four innings, teams scored at 9.2 runs per over. Needless to say, in all four innings, 170+ totals were posted.
Spinners were at the receiving end. In 33.1 overs, they bagged only four wickets and conceded at an economy of 9.2 and had a balls/wicket ratio of 49.7. Whereas the pacers were amongst the wickets (8), but they weren’t spared as well.
As the game went by, the pitch got better for the batters. In the first six overs, teams had scored at a run rate of 8.1. In the middle overs (7-15), that crept up to 8.9, and the last five overs witnessed runs flow at a rate of 11 runs/over.
- Bowling to Mooney in the final of the 2023 W-T20 WC, South Africa bowlers packed the off-side with four fielders inside the circle. In the initial stages, she struggled to score runs. In that WC, wide outside off was her strength as well as weakness. She had scored at a strike rate of 140, but three out of her four dismissals came from this line.
- In the recently completed W-T20 WC 2023, Sciver was brutal against pacers whenever they bowled on length. In 40 balls, she scored 61 runs at a strike rate of 152.5 without being dismissed. Among batters who faced 15+ good length balls against pacers, no other batter had a strike rate above 135. With true bounce on the Navi Mumbai surface, she can be even deadlier.
Three overseas spots for Gujarat are fixed. Mooney as their wicket-keeper and captain, Gardner and Annabel Sutherland are fixed. The toss is between Deandra Dottin and Georgia Wareham. Looking at the record in Navi Mumbai, they are likely to go with the pace of Dottin.
Gujarat Probable XI: Sabbineni Meghana, Beth Mooney (c and wk), Annabel Sutherland, Deandra Dottin/Georgia Wareham, Ashleigh Gardner, Harleen Deol, Dayalan Hemalatha, Sneh Rana, Hurley Gala, Monica Patel, Tanuja Kanwer.
The same goes with Mumbai, their three overseas spots are confirmed. Sciver, Amelia Kerr and Isabelle Wong. Will they go with Chloe Tryon or Heather Graham to strengthen their pace attack is to be seen.
Mumbai Probable XI: Yastika Bhatia (wk), Dhara Gujjar, Amelia Kerr, Harmanpreet Kaur, Natalie Sciver-Brunt, Amanjot Kaur, Humairaa Kazi, Pooja Vastrakar, Chloe Tryon/Heather Graham, Neelam Bist, Isabelle Wong.