As an exuberant Harmanpreet Kaur lifts the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) trophy, and Lanning is denied and defied, it turns out to be one of those nights when the World conspires to turn everything right in favour of the underdogs. This victory or the tournament not only changed the luck for a few but ultimately changed the existing notion of women’s cricket in this country, which challenged the status quo in various ways.
However, one might argue that Mumbai Indians were not the underdogs per se, despite losing two games in their last four encounters in the WPL 2023. Mumbai Indians were invincible in the tournament’s first phase, winning all their first five matches. Mumbai bagged three of the World’s best all-rounders at the moment, while most of their uncapped buys clicked at the given moment. The team looks so solid that they didn’t even try Chloe Tryon, one of the finest strikers of all ball and Heather Graham, who took a hattrick against India last December.
Matthews, who had been picked after going unsold in the first round of the auction, was among the runs and picked up wickets whenever Harmanpreet asked her to. Nat Sciver Brunt and Amelia Kerr were the other two. Their bowling lineup has caused havoc among the opponent’s batters in almost all matches. But, rather than the team, some individual score was settled at Brabourne on Sunday night.
But if we look at hindsight, they were up against Meg Lanning, whose side was one of the best in the WPL. Harmanpreet met Lanning twice in the World Cup Final, and on both occasions, Lanning was on the winning side. A month earlier, India lost their Semifinal against Australia in a relatively comfortable situation. Nat Sciver Burnt’s century in the World Cup final last year was not enough, as Lanning walked away with the trophy. In the previous two years, Charlotte Edwards lost three finals as Coach of Southern Braves and Sidney Sixers in the Hundred and WBBL. However, she turned the things in this final too.
READ MORE: WPL 2023: Know Your Team – Delhi Capitals
It is a rarity that you see a side led by Meg Lanning, known for her tactical prowess and calm head, succeed under pressure, but Delhi did. The spin duo of Matthews and Kerr put the shackle on Delhi batters as the side lost 6 for 6 in the middle overs.
Raw emotions 🎥
— Women's Premier League (WPL) (@wplt20) March 26, 2023
Mumbai needed 21 from the last 12 balls in the WPL final. Delhi, who were at one point 79 for 9 after 16, could sniff their chance there. Harmanpreet, the Mumbai captain, said before the match that she knows that any slimmest of opportunities given to a captain like Lanning can turn out to be crucial in the context of the game. But it looked like thatcher side let the game slip away from them.
Delhi’s middle order had lost six wickets for six runs from 33 balls in the middle overs before Radha Yadav and Shikha Pandey added 52 runs in 24 balls for the last wicket. 36 runs came from the last two overs. Radha, who played crucial roles in the 2019 and 2020 Women T-20 Challenger Knockout, took Delhi’ss score to 131 after hitting NSB’s last two balls for two sixes.
Despite losing two early wickets, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet Kaur, got a grasp of the middle overs. Though they took their time in the middle, gradually, they excelled in the run rate. Harmanpreet got run out as the asking rate mounted toward almost 9 from the initial 6.5. With a required run rate of more than 10 for the last two overs, Meg Lanning called her most trusted general, Jess Jonassen, for the penultimate over.
WPL 2023 saw massive success in every aspect
Both of them have seen a crutch situation like this in Australian colours, and this crafty left-arm spinner was the saviour several times in the death over. May it be in the 2020 Tri-Series Final against India or the 2022 ODI World cup against England. Her one-handed screamer still earns millions of views on social media platforms.
In a most unlikely fashion, she went for 16 runs in that over. Then Nat Sciver-Brunt went back in her crease and scooped the full toss from Alice Capsey over the keeper, which went very fine and to the fence. Mumbai completed the victory. But as it has been said earlier, Mumbai’s victory was not the only good thing that happened due to the WPL. There was much more than that.
It was often argued that India’s domestic cricket doesn’t have enough depth to have a full-fledged Women’s IPL, even with the 6 teams. This is one of the reasons that BCCI has been post-ponding things even after India’s success in the World Cups from 2017 to 2022. After the 2016 T20 World Cup debacle at home, India lost only two matches in the successive two T20 World Cups.
While India was undefeated in the group stage before they lost to England in the Semifinal in 2018 and Australia thrashed them in front of a record-breaking crowd in the 2020 Final, the myths of lack of talent and a not successful side prevailed. India was clumsy in the 2023 World T-20, but still, they reached the Semifinal.
In this inaugural WPL tournament, younger players like Kanika Ahuja, who batted with a strike rate of 132 or Shreyanka Patil, have risen to the occasion for Royal Challengers Bangalore. With 6 wickets, Patil was the high wicket-taker for RCB, that too in a side which fielded players like Perry, Schutt, Devine, Renuka and Knight. This 20-year-old batted down the order with a strike rate that was the 2nd highest for her side.
At the same time, Indian spinner has not been as effective as they were a couple of years back. Spinners like Asha Joy, Saika Ishaque and Parshavi Chopra have become the talking point while spinners are concerned. After a stellar performance in the U-19 World Cup, Parshavi played the last three matches for UP, and Healy showed a lot of confidence in her.
Healy, who has been vocal about this championship for the last couple of years, mentioned that it would be essential to remember that, apart from the gains of the game, it would be worth remembering that it is also about the Indian young stars enhancing their skills while rubbing shoulder with the overseas players. Ash Gardner, the most expensive overseas player in this edition, too expressed her thought that in five or some years, India could match the level of Australia with the help of WPL.
— Women's Premier League (WPL) (@wplt20) March 26, 2023
With her five-wicket haul, Tara Norris, the only cricketer waving the flag of associate nations, not only put the USA on the Cricketing map but might have encouraged many in her country to up cricket as a profession.
Apart from the youngsters who are paving their way to their ultimate target, Indian players also got to sharpen their skills, fulfilling the importance of this type of tournament. Smriti Mandhana was not of her true colours in this tournament. After one of the matches, Meg Lanning was seen talking with Mandhana regarding the lean patches and the hardship that comes along.
Shafali Verma, too, spoke about her learning curve in the DC setup. Anjali Sarvani, who made her debut last December, told ESPNCricinfo how Ash [Ashley Noffke] has given her a solid tip about bowling action, a little thing which caused a considerable difference within one game.
Apart from their performances, the players from the rural towns of Assam, J&K, and Kerala got the chance to share the dressing room with the giant of the games was a learning experience for them during the WPL. Playing in the crunch situation, where the nerves become of the utmost importance, this WPL gave them. Players like Jintimani Kalita, Jasia Akhter, and Minnu Mani shared a dressing room and interacted with players like Lanning and Mathews, which allowed them to develop their game.
Players like Shikha Pandey, Hemalatha Dayalan or Harleen Deol wanted to cement their spot in the national colours. WPL gave them a platform. Apart from picking up 10 wickets, with an economy of less than 7, Pandey scored valuable unbeaten 27 runs in the Final for DC, which gave them something to defend. Her exclusion from the national team in the recent series stirred up controversies. This aced seamer proved why she had been reeved more after the exit of Jhulan Goswami. Hemalata scored 151 runs in the lower order with a strike rate of 158. Deol solidified the fragile Gujrat batting order.
To them, it was not marketable or profitable enough too. A section of the fans echoed their voice, too, that women’s cricket is slow and tedious. So, instead of a full-fledged franchise league, BCCI started the Women’s T20 Challenge. Since its emancipation in 2018, the Women’s T20 Challenge has witnessed only two sides to have won the trophy. Supernovas had won the trophy two consecutive times in 2018 and 2019, and this year they toppled the Velocity by 4 runs on their way to the 3rd one.
However, despite a short life of four years, the Women’s T20 Challenge had its fair share of controversies. From hosting one match at 2.30 p.m in 2018 to scrapping it in 2020 on the pretext of Covid, it provided a launching pad for the Women’s IPL, which was supposed to be initiated after India’s 2017 World Cup performance.
Though the matches were played with a smaller boundary and favourable batting conditions, WPL witnessed a much better run rate (8.08) in 44 innings than the WBBL and The Hundred. While there have been 16 160+ scored in 44 innings, batters took little over 5 balls to hit each boundary. The 4 200+ run innings also debunk the myth that women’s cricket is tedious and slow.
The Broadcasting rights of WPL for the first 5 years were sold for INR 951 crore while the 5 Franchise were sold for INR 4670 crore rupees. This makes the WPL the second most valuable women’s sporting league in the World. This shows both the market value and profitability of Women’s Cricket.
In both venues, matches were played almost in full-house capacities. While the matches were made accessible for the Women in the group league, tickets were sold for the knockouts. In both matches, there were more than 30000 spectators. So nobody watches women’s cricket again turns out to be a myth in the face of growing popularity. WPL gave visibility to the cricketers. Meg Lanning, too said WPL made it possible for the young girls to see what is possible. WPL gave Indian Women’s Cricket circuit hope when there was despair yesterday.
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