With overseas stars doing heavy lifting, WPL ends with promise of changing Indian cricket for better
Mumbai: The Women’s Premier League made a captivating debut and promised a bright future for the aspiring female cricketers in India but the hurriedly organised first season also left a lot of scope for improvement going forward.
The WPL, played entirely across two venues in Mumbai, witnessed special performances from some of the best cricketers in the world but leaving aside left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque, did not unearth a plethora of local talent like it was expected to.
The five-team competition culminated on Sunday with Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur finally leading her side across the line in the summit clash against a team captained by Australian legend Meg Lanning.
The tournament began with plenty of scores over 200 with boundaries as short as 42-44 metres, but pitches tired out eventually and became spin-friendly.
Mumbai’s Hayley Matthews won the Purple Cap for her 16 wickets including four in the final but Nat Sciver-Brunt was the overall top performer with 10 wickets and 332 runs.
Apart from Mumbai Indians’ Ishaque, who took 15 wickets, Shreyanka Patil and Kanika Ahuja of Royal Challengers Bangalore made their mark on the big stage but there was a clear gap between those from the Indian domestic circuit and the world’s best.
While Patil lit up the field with her energy and enthusiasm, 20-year-old Ahuja showed tremendous promise at a young age with her explosive batting.
Harmanpreet acknowledged that little-known Indian players did not get many roles and opportunities to play, but added value to their teams with their fielding, citing the examples of MI’s Amanjot Kaur and Jintimani Kalita.
The Indian skipper hoped that young and uncapped Indian players would emerge wiser from the experience, knowing what they need to do in order to bridge the gap.
Delhi’s head coach Jonathan Batty left with the message, challenging young Indian players to work on their game and fitness for season two.
While Mumbai Indians achieved the high of recording five consecutive wins en route to the title triumph, a team led by another Indian star, Smriti Mandhana’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, endured a five-game losing streak when the competition got underway and the tournament ended for them even before it began.
Mandhana admitted facing difficulties handling a team full of players with bigger stature and more experience than her.
Her own form with the bat failed to inspire RCB, who also had the likes of Ellyse Perry, Heather Knight, Sophie Devine, Megan Schutt and Renuka Singh to name a few.
No doubt Mandhana, a leadership prospect with the Indian team, will emerge better from her first WPL stint as captain and player but it remains to be seen how the team responds after a horrendous first season.
Lanning’s Delhi Capitals did not instill fear in the opposition as Harmanpreet’s MI did but the Australian Lanning led from the front and ended as the tournament’s leading run-getter.
But if Lanning was consistent with the bat at the top, Shafali Verma blowing hot and cold remained an issue which Delhi Capitals could not do much about.
If RCB had to bear with Mandhana’s poor run with the bat, Delhi Capitals experienced the same with their vice-captain Jemimah Rodrigues. The right-handed batter failed to score even a fifty, but entertained the crowd with her athleticism in the field taking some stunning catches.
Gujarat Giants began with losing their preferred captain Beth Mooney halfway into the first game and endured a largely disappointing campaign, but Deol’s contributions mixed with Ashleigh Gardner’s prowess give them hope for the future.
Sneh Rana did her best as stand-in captain, but overall, GG were not good enough to advance to the knockouts.
Alyssa Healy’s UP Warriorz got outplayed in the Eliminator by Mumbai Indians, but they were the first side to beat the eventual winners and showed a lot of promise with Navgire, Grace Harris, Anjali Sarvani and Sophie Ecclestone who took joint highest 16 wickets in their ranks.
The 22-game competition spread over as many days this March was held entirely in Mumbai, and like many, both Healy and Ecclestone also wished for home and away games from next season onwards.
It remains to be seen if the BCCI decides to organise the next WPL in the home-away format like the Indian Premier League, as crowd support plays a big part in the success of teams and also helps in creating a much needed fan base.