Akshay Kumaraswamy
13 Mar 2023 | 01:43 PM

WPL Mid Season - What worked and what hasn't?

The inaugural season of WPL has reached the halfway mark, and the fans couldn’t have asked for more

We’ve seen fantastic performances from, both, unknown domestic talents, and known international superstars during the inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League (WPL). There have been some interesting trends emerging over the last 10 games, and we have captured it all.

Brabourne, batters' bread and butter

Sure, high scoring has been the norm this tournament. There has been only one instance of the toss-winning team winning the game, in the first 10 games. This irrelevance of tosses is a testimony to the true surfaces on offer. Also, the chasing bias hasn’t been extreme (yet), with the defending team winning only 40% of the games.

Brabourne Stadium has been an absolute batters’ paradise. DY Patil Stadium, on the other hand, has seen more of an even contest between the bat and ball.

Spin it to win it?

Pacers, in particular, have had absolutely nothing to work with at Brabourne. Megan Schutt, during a mid-game interview, mentioned that it seemed like they’ve just asphalted the center & called it a pitch. Couldn’t have explained it better, even if we tried.

In fact, pacers have taken just the solitary wicket in 27 powerplay overs at Brabourne. DY Patil has seen a lot more movement with the new ball, explaining the pacers’ significantly better performance here.

Mumbai batting monsters, Gujarat disastrous 

DC and MI have been leading on the batting front. In MI’s case, their excellent bowling performances have meant that they’ve only been chasing under par totals. Such has been their top order’s domination that MI batters outside the top six have faced only one delivery, so far. DC’s openers have carried their batting till now, with Meg Lanning & Shafali Verma being amongst the top three run scorers. What’s also helped is that their middle-order have come up with crucial contributions to ensure that no momentum is lost. They rank second in boundary % and have the lowest dot % as well.

DC’s openers have bossed the powerplay. Verma & Lanning have complimented each other very well, and ensured that the high run scoring has not come at the cost of wickets. In the middle overs, MI come out on top. While chasing below par totals, middle overs is where they’ve pressed the foot on the pedal.

GG’s issues with lack of proven batting options was further exacerbated, when Beth Mooney was ruled out of the tournament in the first game. Ashleigh Gardner is yet to hit the ground running, Sabbineni Meghana has only one score in double digits, and Harleen Deol has been their only consistent performer. 

And they have not made it easier for themselves with their selection choices. 

They chose to drop Sophia Dunkley, who was coming from a 19-ball-fifty in the previous game, for Laura Wolvaardt, another slow starter. A consequence of that has been that barring the game against RCB, they have lost more than one powerplay wicket in every game. This has resulted in their batters playing catch up for the rest of the game and having the highest dot ball%.

RCB’s batters have been plagued by a lack of conversion of starts. They’ve started out strong in the powerplay, in most innings, but it’s just tapered down in the middle overs every time. 

Despite having a lot of starts, numbers show how RCB have not converted it into big ones. They have the lowest conversion rate of all teams, and the 2 fifties scored by RCB batters saw the batter slow down after facing 20 balls. The only 2 instances of that happening (min. 35 balls faced). Also, spinners have managed to apply the choke when required. RCB is currently the slowest scoring team against spinners, and despite not taking much, they’ve lost the most wickets against them. Smriti Mandhana's form vs spin has only compounded that.             

Mumbai with a Saik-ed up performance

MI has been the standout bowling team, so far, with DC being a distant second. While MI’s spinners have done most of the damage for them, it’s been the pacers leading the DC bowling attack. MI’s bowlers have been leading the tournament on all counts, and RCB’s bowlers rank last. 

MI has been the leading powerplay bowling unit, having taken powerplay wickets in every match. Saika Ishaque has been a revelation for MI, and has formed a potent duo with Hayley Matthews across phases. Issy Wong, Nat Sciver-Brunt, & Amelia Kerr have ably supported the duo, and their formidable position in the points table is a reflection of that. For DC, Tara Norris & Marizanne Kapp single-handedly won games with their five-fors, and they will be hoping for the rest of the attack to come good in the coming games.

GG’s emphasis on all-rounders has meant that they have had to field XIs without dedicated death bowlers. It comes as no surprise that their death overs numbers so far read 48/1 vs MI, 68/1 vs UPW, & 55/3 vs RCB. With no clear death bowling option available, it remains to be seen as to how will they navigate the death overs in their final 4 games.

UPW’s pacers haven’t had much to show for. A selection conundrum for the final overseas spot has forced them to bench Shabnam Ismail more often than they would have liked, and overly have relied on Anjali Sarvani & Tahlia McGrath. Their superior spin attack has compensated for the pacers, and with the pitches going through more wear & tear, they would want the tracks to assist spinners even more.

RCB’s poor showing in the powerplay has played a big role in their unexpected underperformance in the first half. In Megan Schutt & Renuka Thakur, they had, arguably, the best new ball attack in the tournament. Having played all their games at Brabourne, a graveyard for pacers, the duo have not been able to penetrate much. A strong powerplay enabled the opponents to target the weaker part of their bowling attack, the spinners. RCB will be playing 3 of their last 4 games at DY Patil, and will be hoping that the change of venue adds a bit of tooth to their bowling attack.

Come the second half, there will be quite a few talking points. Will the law of averages catch up with MI & RCB, or will they continue their respective ways? As the pitches deteriorate, will spinners play an even bigger role in the latter half of the tournament? Importantly, will tosses a bigger role in determining the outcome. Irrespective of the answers, the fans can be sure that they will have a lot to look forward to.

(All stats updated till Match 10, on March 13, 2023 prior to the clash between Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore)

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