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Gujarat Giants confident of overturning the disappointment of last season: Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj is confident that despite missing the services of Kashvee Gautam and Lauren Cheatle, her team will do well in the WPL.

Gujarat Giants (GG) mentor and former India cricket team captain Mithali Raj would not have envisaged a bottom-placed finish for her team in the first edition of Women’s Premier League (WPL). Some questionable choices at the auction and injuries marred GG’s chances in the previous WPL, forcing the team management to make changes for the upcoming edition.

PREMIUM Gujarat Giants mentor Mithali also mentors the Railways team(BCCI)

In came Kashvee Gautam — a 20-year-old all-rounder from Chandigarh — for ₹2 crore in the WPL 2 auction to add zing to the outfit. However, Gautam was ruled due to a foot injury along with Australia fast bowler Lauren Cheatle after she underwent a medical procedure for skin cancer.

Sharing her thoughts on losing these two cricketers for the upcoming season, Mithali said, “Losing Kashvee to an injury is definitely a loss. She has been performing so well in the domestic circuit. We know what her bowling could bring to the side, and not to forget how useful a batter she could be.”

Mumbai’s Sayali Sathgare was named her replacement at a reserve price of ₹10 lakhs. “The domestic season just ended and the players experience wear and tear during matches and sometimes pick injuries. It was important to find a good replacement. Sayali has done well in the inter-zonals held recently,” Mithali said.

New Zealand’s seasoned cricketer Lea Tahuhu will replace Cheatle. “Lea has been a very good medium-pacer for New Zealand. She brings a lot of experience to the team and young players can learn a lot from her on and off the field.”

Last season, GG skipper Beth Mooney had to leave WPL after sustaining an injury in the first game against Mumbai Indians. The Aussie will be joining the team soon as she is on national duty against South Africa at home.

“We can learn from the previous season and work to do well in WPL 2. I have told the players to compete fiercely. Also, this being a two-phased tournament, there are going to be ups and downs but how the players pull back will make it different. The core team has to deliver, each player should have clarity about their role in the team,” added Mithali, who is relishing her role as a mentor of the WPL team. GG will open their campaign at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru against Mumbai Indians on February 25.

There is a change in the backroom staff as well with Michael Klinger replacing Rachel Haynes as the head coach. Klinger, who played three T20Is for Australia, was the assistant coach of Sydney Thunder in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and has also served as the head coach of the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League (BBL).

“He has played for Australia. He has brought a structure to the training sessions. He is open to interaction and puts the team first. He has emphasised a lot on preparation. The players have responded tremendously to his training methods and to his communication techniques. There is energy and a positive outlook in the team which is important in franchise cricket. Everything should be in sync within the team going into WPL, this is what I see in Mike.”

It was surprising to see GG going for 31-year-old Veda Krishnamurthy in the auction. She has not performed for Karnataka in domestic cricket and was a commentator in the last WPL after going unsold in the auction. A bizarre choice especially when other teams have opted for high-flying domestic cricketers who have been in great form. “We picked her as someone who has experience. She might not have had domestic success this season but she can bring international experience up the order. She has improved since the first day of practice. Even Mike has been impressed with her skills and approach,” Mithali explained.

Sharing her thoughts on how the WPL has had an impact on Indian women’s cricket, Mithali, who also mentors the Railways team said, “WPL probably mirrors what IPL has done for men’s cricket. The pool of players has increased. The selectors now have a larger pool to pick teams for India. Some players have made their India debuts after WPL success. There is a whole new approach towards domestic cricket too with an increased focus on fielding and fitness,” felt Mithali, who quit international cricket in 2022 after serving India for almost 23 years.

Mumbai Indians cricketer Saika Ishaque and RCB’s Shreyanka Patil along with Kanika Ahuja got into the India team owing to impressive WPL outings.

With the T20 World Cup approaching in a few months in Bangladesh, can WPL 2 help in identifying talent for the India team? “Potential talented cricketers can probably be identified and can be kept in the scheme of things for the future. In WPL, overseas cricketers are less and the composition varies. So, players can be groomed. The international standards are very high,” she concluded.


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