WPL: Gujarat Giants, Royal Challengers aim to banish first season blues | Crickit

WPL 2024: Gujarat Giants, Royal Challengers Bangalore aim to banish first season blues

Feb 21, 2024 09:39 AM IST

Having ended up as the last two teams in Season 1 of the 5-team women's T20 league, both have plenty to prove in the second edition starting on Friday.

With victories in just two of their eight league games, Gujarat Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore had a forgettable inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) last year. There was balance and firepower in both squads but neither could get on a roll and make a push for the playoffs. For Gujarat, a strong start will be crucial as they aim to bounce back from their bottom finish in 2023. A lot will depend on skipper Beth Mooney. The 30-year-old Australian player got injured in the first game and missed the rest of the tournament. This time though she heads in with great confidence after scoring heavily across formats against South Africa recently.

Gujarat Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore had a forgettable inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) last year(WPL)
Gujarat Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore had a forgettable inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) last year(WPL)

Mooney has the appetite for big knocks and whether she walks in at the top or the middle order, Gujarat’s batting is likely to revolve around her. Phoebe Litchfield, another Australian left-hander, was roped in by GG for 1 crore and will be one to watch out for. A gun fielder, the 20-year-old was a standout performer on the India tour in December-January. Aussie Ash Gardner and South Africa's Laura Wolvaardt too are class acts in Gujarat’s squad, while established Indians Sneh Rana, Harleen Deol, Meghna Singh, D Hemalatha and Veda Krishnamurthy too will have to step up for their team to remain in contention.

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Gujarat have depth in their batting and quality spin options but pace bowling, despite the presence of New Zealand's Lea Tahuhu and Scotland's Kathryn Bryce, could pose a concern as the season progresses. With Kashvee Gautam -- her 2 crore bid by GG made her the most expensive uncapped Indian player in WPL -- ruled out for the entire season as well, Gujarat may have to rely heavily on their spinners.

Focus on Smriti

For Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), captain Smriti Mandhana will remain the focal point. The star India batter was far from her best last season, scoring only 149 runs in eight innings. She kept finding different ways to get out and her leadership wasn’t inspiring either as RCB finished second last.

During the recent tours of England and Australia to India, Smriti got starts a number of times but hit just two half-centuries in 12 innings. At her best, the 27-year-old can take down the finest attacks in the world and her team will be hoping she begins the season on a positive note.

In terms of India internationals, RCB have a promising bunch in Smriti, Renuka Singh, Richa Ghosh and Shreyanka Patil. Last year, Renuka’s performance wasn’t up to the mark as she took just one wicket in six games. But after a long injury layoff, the right-arm swing bowler regained confidence against England and Australia and will be determined to carry forward that momentum.

While Shreyanka, with her off-spin, lower-order batting and impressive fielding, is a key player, Richa could prove game-changer with the bat. The 20-year-old right-hander is one of the cleanest ball-strikers in the game and has been among runs in recent times. RCB will be banking on her to deliver consistently in the death overs.

Perhaps the biggest letdown for RCB last year was their bowling as opponents posted huge totals against them consistently. Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine and Nadine de Klerk are all quality all-rounders, but a lot could depend on Australian spinners Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux in the middle overs.

RCB too had a last-minute setback as all-rounder Kanika Ahuja was ruled of the tournament due to injury and replaced by Maharashtra’s left-arm pacer Shradda Pokharkar.

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