Mumbai Indians' WPL triumph – an all-round success story
Packing with all-rounders paid off for the Harmanpreet Kaur led team, which eased to victory over Delhi Capitals in the Women’s Premier League final at Brabourne Stadium on Sunday
At the end of the player auction for the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL), the overseas all-rounders in the Mumbai Indians squad made them stand out. In Natalie Sciver-Brunt, Hayley Matthews and Amelia Kerr they had world class cricketers and it seemed certain the trio would lend great balance to the side.
While they did prove instrumental in MI emerging the first WPL champions on Sunday, at the end of the tournament their all-round strength stood out in more ways than one.
MI notched up winning streaks of five matches and then three, with two losses in the middle, to claim the title. They were the team to beat and their solidity stood out with comprehensive team performances.
In Heather Graham, MI had the only Australia player – the most powerful nation in women’s cricket. It was a bold move as the Aussie players are serial winners and proved to be major assets in the other four teams. Besides, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur won only one toss in 10 games – in the last league match against RCB.
None of that mattered as MI found match-winners aplenty in the squad.
Harman leads from the front
Just over a month before the WPL final, Harmanpreet had looked distraught after India’s close semifinal loss to Australia in the Women’s T20 World Cup. After the 2017 ODI World Cup, 2020 T20 World Cup and 2022 Commonwealth Games, it was another opportunity missed for Harmanpreet and India.
On Sunday night though, she looked at peace and laughed heartily after MI’s triumph. Harmanpreet said an ICC title remains on her wish list but winning an important trophy meant a great deal.
The 34-year-old was tactically astute and was among the runs throughout. She started the tournament with a bang and finished as the fourth highest run-scorer (281 runs) with three half-centuries and an average of 40.14 (S/R 135.09). In the final too, it was her partnership with Sciver-Brunt that guided MI towards victory.
“Feels great to be on the winning side,” said Harmanpreet. “I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I am happy that as captain I could win something so important for women’s cricket. I want to carry the winning momentum into the next season as well.”
Matthews was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with Sophie Ecclestone (16 each), Issy Wong and Kerr were the second highest wicket-takers (with Saika Ishaque - 15); Sciver-Brunt was joint fourth highest (10). In the batting list, Sciver-Brunt was second and Matthews was fifth. Kerr played a number of crucial knocks, including an unbeaten 14 in the final. Wong was the only bowler to take a hat-trick while none hit a century.
Mumbai’s overseas players shouldered the responsibility and produced clutch performances from start to finish. Their diverse skillsets provided MI genuine match-winners through the lineup. The franchise put its faith in all-rounders and it led them to the title.
Sciver-Brunt was a rock at the business end of the competition. She was the Player-of-the- Match in the eliminator and the final for knocks of 72* and 60*.
“Since the day this team was formed, we were only talking about getting more all-rounders in,” said Harmanpreet. “Having all-rounders gives a balance to your team. Not only Nat (Sciver-Brunt), if you look at Amelia’s performance, she was always there for the team. Wong was also outstanding.”
Mumbai Indians won five straight matches to begin their campaign and a key performer during that phase was Ishaque. The uncapped 27-year-old from Bengal was picked by MI at her base price of ₹10 lakh and she proved a game-changer. In the first four matches, she bagged a phenomenal 12 wickets.
The left-arm spinner bowled with great skill and confidence to dismiss some of the best in the business – Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath, Meg Lanning, Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Sophie Devine.
With Ishaque providing a solid wicket-taking option, Harmanpreet had more freedom to rotate her bowlers and build pressure on opponents.
Harmanpreet won the Best-catch-of-the-Season award for her effort to dismiss UP Warriorz opener Devika Vaidya. The skipper was brilliant as usual and was ably supported by teammates as MI emerged the best fielding side in the tournament.
Amanjot Kaur in particular was exceptional, standing out on the field consistently. In the eliminator against UPW, the 23-year-old’s sensational effort helped run out McGrath, the top-ranked batter in the world. In the final, her quick footwork and immaculate throw from cover led to the all-important run out of Lanning.
“Indian players may not have got too many opportunities. But if you talk about fielding, they were always there,” said Harmanpreet. “They knew that even if they didn’t get the chance to bat or bowl, there was one department in which they could contribute. All the players were ready to do anything for the team.”