WPL 2024: Star-studded Mumbai Indians again the team to beat | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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WPL 2024: Star-studded Mumbai Indians again the team to beat

By, Mumbai
Feb 22, 2024 07:55 AM IST

The 2023 champions will test their formidable line-up in a repeat of last year's final against Delhi Capitals in Bengaluru on Friday

For Mumbai Indians, the second edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) is likely to present a greater challenge than what they faced in the first season. Not only do they carry the weight of being defending champions, they won’t enjoy the support of partisan crowds like they did at home venues last year as the T20 competition moves to Bengaluru and Delhi.

Mumbai Indians skipper Harmanpreet Kaur along with teammates celebrate with the Womens Premier League 2023(WPL/Twitter)
Mumbai Indians skipper Harmanpreet Kaur along with teammates celebrate with the Womens Premier League 2023(WPL/Twitter)

Having said that, Harmanpreet Kaur and Co start favourites entering WPL 2024, which begins with a clash between them and 2023 runners-up Delhi Capitals at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru on Friday. It is the balance of Indian and overseas stars, the mix of youth and experience and the number of all-rounders in the squad that sets MI apart from the other four teams in the tournament.

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“We just want to do what we did last year, keep things simple and enjoy our cricket,” said Harmanpreet at MI’s pre-tournament press conference in Mumbai.

“We hope to give all the players clear roles so that they can go out there and perform. I know a lot of eyeballs will be on us this time since we won last year. But last year as well, we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves. We’ll try and create a similar atmosphere, enjoy each other’s success and back each other.”

In Harmanpreet, who also leads India across formats, MI have a captain who has experience in dealing with pressure situations and can rally the domestic players. With the bat, the 34-year-old looked secure at the crease last season and aggregated 281 runs, with three half-centuries, in nine innings.

Mumbai have four other India internationals in their ranks – Pooja Vastrakar, Yastika Bhatia, Amanjot Kaur and Saika Ishaque.

In the recent home series against England and Australia, Pooja emerged a key player with her all-round performances. Amanjot, who is a gun fielder, has shown promise as a seam-bowling all-rounder. While Saika’s left-arm spin was a major weapon for MI last season, Yastika is a solid option for the role of keeper-batter.

As far as overseas players are concerned, Hayley Matthews and Natalie Sciver-Brunt formed a dream pair for MI last year. Matthews was brilliant with the bat at the top of the order and backed that up with her clever off-spin. She won the Player-of-the-Tournament award, and later in the year hit a breathtaking 64-ball 132 to help West Indies chase down 212 in a T20 against Australia.

Sciver-Brunt was Player-of-the-Match in last year’s final for her unbeaten half-century. The 31-year-old is arguably the finest batter in the women’s game at the moment and won back-to-back ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year awards. A medium-pacer, she also has the knack of providing breakthroughs.

“Hayley and Nat are two wonderful all-rounders who have dominated the world game over the last 12 months,” MI head coach and former England captain Charlotte Edwards said. “We’re really lucky to have them in our squad. I’ve played with Nat and then watched her grow as a player over the years. It’s been incredible to see her success. And Hayley was, without a doubt, our standout player last year. So yeah, looking for more of the same from them this time.”

In terms of bowling, Mumbai were a cut above the rest last season as they had four of the five highest wicket-takers in the tournament. Apart from Matthews and Saika, young England pacer Issy Wong and New Zealand leg-spinner Amelia Kerr were key contributors. Now with South Africa’s Shabnim Ismail joining the squad, the MI attack looks all the more potent.

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