A promising start for Women's Premier League | Crickit

A promising start for Women's Premier League

Mar 22, 2023 10:48 PM IST

With each team having played eight matches, here's a look at some of the key takeaways from the tournament

After 20 matches and two and a half weeks of action-packed cricket, the league stage of the inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League (WPL) ended with Delhi Capitals qualifying for the final.

BCCI President Roger Binny (L), Secretary Jay Shah (2L) along with WPL teams' captains pose with the WPL trophy during its inauguration, in Navi Mumbai(PTI)
BCCI President Roger Binny (L), Secretary Jay Shah (2L) along with WPL teams' captains pose with the WPL trophy during its inauguration, in Navi Mumbai(PTI)

Fans of women's cricket had waited a long time for the WPL to arrive. Australia's Big Bash League and England's Super League were great platforms in their own right but it was widely accepted that for the women's game to soar further, a T20 league in India had to get going.

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And so, 15 years after the IPL was born, the WPL came to life with the biggest names in the game stepping up. With five teams competing and playing eight matches each, the league stage didn't disappoint despite the several handicaps that come with the first edition of a tournament. There was individual brilliance aplenty, a remarkably strong sense of team spirit, close finishes, and packed stadiums.

With each team having played eight matches, here's a look at some of the key takeaways from the tournament:

Overseas supremacy

Of the 20 games that were played in the league stage, 15 saw the player of the match award go to an overseas player. This shouldn't come as too big a surprise, considering the number of domestic players competing, but there's no denying that every team depended heavily on its overseas stars.

In the list of highest run-scorers in the tournament, the top five names are of overseas players. And among bowlers, only MI's Saika Ishaque was in the top five wicket-takers.

Lanning and Marizanne Kapp for DC, Hayley Matthews, Natalie Sciver-Brunt and Amelia Kerr for MI, Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath and Grace Harris for UPW, Sophie Devine and Ellyse Perry for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Ashleigh Gardner and Kim Garth for Gujarat Giants - the league stage saw these proven international performers take great responsibility for their respective teams.

India internationals

Harmanpreet Kaur gave the tournament a memorable start with her blazing knock in the opening game. Of the five player of the match awards that went to Indians in the league stage, three were won by the MI and India captain. Shafali Verma too was explosive in DC's first match and went on two play a couple of more match-winning knocks. Harleen Deol and Yastika Bhatia were among the runs as well and with the ball, seasoned pacer Shikha Pandey delivered a number of impressive spells for the Capitals.

However, a number of players who feature regularly in the Indian team weren't at their best. At the top of that list, of course, was Smriti Mandhana. Perhaps, the pressure of captaincy and a general tentativeness against spin bowling were factors as the left-hander registered a string of low scores.

The likes of Renuka Singh Thakur, Jemimah Rodrigues (who took a couple of brilliant catches, though), Richa Ghosh, Sneh Rana, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma couldn't find consistency either.

Domestic talents

One of the main attractions of a tournament like the WPL is its potential to launch domestic talents. It could be argued that in this regard, there perhaps weren't enough names that truly stole the spotlight.

Having said that, there were a few players who made a name for themselves with some bright performances. Left-arm spinner Ishaque was on the top of that list as she ended the league stage as the joint second-highest wicket-taker. The 27-year-old from Bengal bowled with great skill and composure to deliver for Harmanpreet consistently.

For RCB, young Shreyanka Patil and Kanika Ahuja were impressive. While Patil showed immense promise with her all-round abilities, Ahuja's 30-ball 46 led her team to its first victory of the season. D Hemalatha too served a reminder of her power-hitting skills with a 33-ball 57 in Gujarat Giants' last game.

Fans galore

With women's cricket in India still far from reaching its potential, it was encouraging to see the huge crowds that turned up right through the league stage.

There were near-packed stadiums every time MI, the home team technically, took the field. And even without them competing, there were sizeable crowds in almost every game. Be it a weekday or the weekend, fans would rush into the stadium even over an hour after a game had started. Although there were free tickets being handed out as well, the fact that fans, in throngs, made the effort to make their way to the stadiums was just what the WPL needed.

In terms of the action on the field, one can expect the WPL to only get better as India's domestic players gain more exposure. And with the fans showing their support, there's reason to believe the league could go on to achieve great things.

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