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WPL 2024: Indian batters sparkle, fielders flop overall

Deepti Sharma was among those who stood out in the group phase of the second edition of the women’s T20 league, which enters the playoffs

The league phase of the Women’s Premier League has come to an end. The crowds have turned up to watch, and as always there were some standout performances. There have been thrillers and one-sided games as well but as the tournament moves into the playoffs, here’s a look at the big takeaways so far from WPL 2:

Deepti Sharma, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana were the star performers from their sides.

Deepti Sharma and the Indian batters

Indian batters have had a good league phase in WPL. Deepti Sharma kept coming to UP Warriorz’s rescue with fighting knocks down the order. Her 295 runs at an average of 98.33 (SR 136.57) showed just how valuable a resource she is for the Indian team. A good sign for the national team is that she wasn’t alone. DC’s Shafali Verma (265 runs @ SR of 155.88), RCB’s Smriti Mandhana (259 runs @ SR of 145.5), MI’s Harmanpreet Kaur (259 runs @ SR of 146.87), DC’s Jemimah Rodrigues (231 runs @ SR of 154) and RCB’s Richa Ghosh (226 runs @ SR of 152.7) have played more than a fair hand for their teams.

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This gives India coach Amol Muzumdar something to really build on between now and the T20 World Cup which is scheduled to begin in September. A big positive is the strike rate of most of the top batters. If they can bat in a similar manner in national colours, India will be a tough side to beat.

Drop in fielding standards

Wednesday’s match was the 20th in WPL and some very interesting cricket has been played so far. The one thing that has been glaring amidst the positives is the overall poor standard of fielding. Sitters have been dropped with alarming regularity and the tough catches are almost never taken — 52 catches had been dropped until Tuesday. And it is not just the Indian players who are to blame. The poor levels should be a wake-up call for a league that is still trying to establish itself. There really is no excuse for this.

There is lot of talk about some interesting young Indian talent coming through, but the point should be to get the basics right. The same struggle has been seen in international cricket, but the professional WPL set-up should help bring more young players to a higher level.

A Lanning class

Meg Lanning remains elite as a batter and leader even after international retirement. The former Australia skipper has scored the big runs and demanded excellence from her team (DC), all the while showing that she is more than prepared to put in the hard yards herself. Her approach is something that many players can learn from; for many young Indian players, there could not be a betterrole model. She brings professionalism and hunger to the game that is worth emulating at many levels.

India’s pacers struggle

Pacers have been in the news in WPL. Marizanne Kapp has been very impressive for DC, Shabnam Ismail bowled the fastest recorded delivery in women’s cricket, Ellyse Perry (6/15) delivered a spell for the ages. But India’s pacers have not had a great time in the tournament. Arundhati Reddy has eight wickets, but Renuka Singh Thakur is having another poor season while Titas Sadhu and Pooja Vastrakar haven’t done much either. Spinners do much of the wicket-taking for India, but a good start never hurts. India haven’t quite been able to fill the void left by Jhulan Goswami, and while that will never be easy, there clearly is an opportunity to be grabbed here.

The 16-year-old Shabnam Shakil, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, however, is a bowler worth keeping an eye on. She isn’t very quick and technically there are some bits to work on, but she is young and can swing the ball.

Giants sink again, RCB rise

Beth Mooney scored 285 runs but the rest of the Giants batting line-up failed to fire. Tanuja Kanwar took eight wickets but no one else was among the wickets. Their collective failures have seen GG finish bottom of the table for the second season running — ending on four points on both occasions. It doesn’t make for pretty reading and calls for change will be heard sooner rather than later.

And if they want to figure how to get things right, they only need to look at RCB. Mandhana’s team struggled last season but were determined to change things around this time.

“We couldn’t step up and play the cricket we wanted to play (last year). But in the last one year, a lot of thought has gone into this. A lot of hard work behind the scenes, not only from my side but all the support staff, and the RCB management. For them to show faith in all of us was just amazing,” said Mandhana after her team sealed a playoffs spot.

“You know, the only conversation they had was “this is your team, make it the way you want to”. That was really nice from their side to do that. I wouldn’t say that (this has been a) really satisfying campaign still, but we had a lot of ups and downs. We started off well and then had a little bit of dip. But that’s how WPL and T20 cricket is. You’ll have good days and bad days.”


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