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WPL 2024 preview: All eyes on India’s young talent

A genuine opportunity for the host nation to see if their younger players are good enough for the international level.

For the Indian team, the second edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) comes at an opportune moment. Harmanpreet Kaur and Co are going through a transitional phase, as was evident in the number of debuts they handed out during the recent series against England and Australia, and the WPL will provide another platform to identify young talent ahead of the T20 World Cup in September-October.

Indian team management’s focus will also be on the form of skipper Harmanpreet and the fielding standard of regular squad members(BCCI)

Harmanpreet, who leads the Indian and Mumbai Indians sides, said as much during a pre-season event last week. “If we see some good performances in the WPL, we could give them a chance at the World Cup,” she said.

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There are two sets of players the team management and selectors are likely to keep a closer eye on. First, there are the likes of Sneh Rana, Yastika Bhatia and S Meghana, who have got experience in international cricket but aren’t certainties for India.

Sneh led Gujarat Giants last season after Beth Mooney got injured in the opener. The 30-year-old bowled well in the recent Tests against England and Australia and with the T20 World Cup set to be held in Bangladesh, the off-spinning all-rounder could come in handy.

Yastika, too, did well for Mumbai Indians last year and will be keen to push Richa Ghosh for the keeper’s slot in the Indian team. Meghana hasn’t played international cricket in two years but can be explosive at the top of the order.

Then there are the uncapped players who have shown great potential. At the top of this list was Kashvee Gautam, who was acquired by Gujarat Giants for a record ₹2 crore, but the 20-year-old has been ruled out of the tournament due to an injury.

Vrinda Dinesh has been among the top run-scorers in domestic cricket for the last couple of years and was picked by UP Warriorz for ₹1.3 crore. Ashwani Kumari (DC) has been another consistent performer with the bat, while left-arm wrist spinner Amandeep Kaur (MI) could also make an impact.

Fielding, Harmanpreet’s form in focus

In a broader sense, the Indian team management’s focus will also be on the form of skipper Harmanpreet and the fielding standard of regular squad members. Fielding has been a major concern for India for the longest time and in their last assignments against England and Australia, there were a number of lapses that proved to be costly.

After taking over as head coach of the Indian team late last year, Amol Muzumdar, in his first press conference, had said that there will be no compromise when it comes to fielding and fitness. But apart from Harmanpreet, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shreyanka Patil and Amanjot Kaur, the players left a lot to be desired in the field.

A tournament like the WPL provides an incredible opportunity for Indian players to rub shoulders with the best in the world, to notice their work ethic and identify ways to improve. One season perhaps isn’t long enough to bring about drastic changes but it can help push things in the right direction.

It will also be worth keeping an eye on Harmanpreet’s performances with the bat. The 34-year-old had scores of 26, 9, 6*, 0, 9, 5, 3, 6 and 3 across the T20Is and ODIs against England and Australia respectively. In the WPL last year, though, she looked assured batting alongside the likes of Hayley Matthews and Natalie Sciver-Brunt and ended up scoring 281 runs, with three-centuries, in nine innings to help MI win the title.

Heading towards the World Cup, it’s crucial for the Indian team that their captain and most experienced batter regains form and has another strong WPL season.


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