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WPL: How RCB spun their winning tale

RCB spin quartet Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Asha Sobhana and Shreyanka Patil combined for 44 wickets in WPL 2, setting up their maiden title

Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Asha Sobhana and Shreyanka Patil are as disparate as they come — as spinners and personalities.

RCB celebrate after winning the WPL 2024 final.(AFP)

Aussies Molineux and Wareham have donned national colours plenty of times and are regulars on the global franchise scene. Sobhana, 33, has never played for India while Patil, with six T20Is, is an international rookie.

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Savouring their first taste of stardom, the Indians were all wide eyes and wider smiles on Monday, while for the Aussies, it appeared a case of been there, done that. To imagine that cricketers as divergent and versatile can form a cohesive group to deliver a trophy in the span of three frenetic weeks sounds improbable, but RCB’s spin quartet has done just that.

The Smriti Mandhana-led side spun out last edition’s finalists Delhi Capitals (DC) on a memorable Sunday here, but the formula and foundation for the title-winning run were laid long back. RCB dismissed Capitals for 113, going on to win by eight wickets.

Having finished fourth among five teams in Women’s Premier League’s (WPL) debut season, RCB identified the gaps in their squad; the need for quality spinners was felt almost immediately. Sobhana and Patil had struggled in 2023, picking only five and six wickets respectively, and so RCB went shopping.

At the December auction, the franchise went for the left-arm spin of Molineux ( ₹30 lakh) and leg spinner Wareham ( ₹40 lakh), which would prove pivotal to their title pursuit.

“It was a conscious decision to bolster our spin department. We felt the need to control the middle overs,” RCB head coach Luke Williams said. “Not many teams can boast of four quality spinners, and if you look closely, all four have their distinct styles.”

While Sobhana and Wareham bowl wrist spin, Molineux is a left-arm finger spinner and Patil is an offie. All four though have the ability to flight the ball. This in an era where wrist spinners are increasingly becoming rare and finger spinners rely on firing the ball in.

“While powerplay bowling was a concern, our spinners were a revelation in the middle overs,” gushed Mandhana. “Wareham is a little quicker, Sobhana loves to flight the ball, Sophie can do a bit of both and Shreyanka is very accurate. Their individual strengths came together beautifully for us.”

RCB’s tweakers ended with 44 wickets from 10 matches, 34 of them coming in a winning cause. Patil (13), Sobhana (12) and Molineux (12) took the top three spots in the overall wickets tally while Wareham played the support role with seven scalps.

Molineux, in fact, turned the final on its head after DC had raced to 61/0 in the powerplay, sending back the blazing Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Alice Capsey in the span of four deliveries. Each of those batters was deceived in flight as Molineux got the ball to dip beautifully.

“After the two games that we lost in Delhi, I realised I was bowling a little quicker,” said Molineux. “We started looking at our speeds, especially Shreyanka and I, we are finger spinners who can resort to quicker deliveries. We decided to be brave in all phases of the game and go for wickets.”

Patil, who idolises R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon, understood the need to rein in her variations and let the sluggish Kotla track do its job. “It is very important to know when to use your variations. In Delhi, we figured merely slowing the pace will do. I added good revolutions to my deliveries to extract whatever help I could from the wicket. We decided to attack the stumps, which was a departure from what we usually do in domestic cricket,” the 21-year-old said.

Sobhana, who started her campaign with a five-wicket haul, attributed her success to Mandhana. “I am a naturally aggressive spinner and Smriti always gave me the attacking fields. Also, RCB has been holding various camps since August which gave me time to plan and strategise.”

The Stuart MacGill fan found an ally in Railways teammate Ekta Bisht. The duo discussed possible bowling plans in each training session, meticulously plotting for major opposition batters. In the end, it was all worth it.


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