The heartbreaking T20 World Cup defeat just a few days ago seemed to be a thing of the past for the seasoned, undeterred Harmanpreet Kaur as she interacted with the media on the eve of the Women’s Premier League opener.
The India captain, who will be leading the Mumbai Indians in the tournament, looked happy, calm and composed and had no hesitation in admitting that when her team takes on Gujarat Giants in the inaugural fixture at the DY Patil Stadium on Saturday, it will be the ‘biggest day’ for women’s cricket.
As the players from both teams sweated it out in the nets, they looked excited. After all, this was the moment they all have been waiting for!
“We had a couple of good performances in the T20 World Cup and now before any World Cup, we will play this league and it will help us in gaining a lot of experience and exposure. We will see a lot of young girls emerging from this tournament and that’s the main reason we wanted this tournament to start,” Harmanpreet said.
The tournament has generated a huge buzz among cricket fans, with the first couple of games being sold out, and the players know the importance of such a league. While this will be an opportunity for the youngsters to learn a thing or two from the biggest names in world cricket, for the senior campaigners, too, the WPL will provide the added game time.
And when the action begins, Mumbai Indians will be hoping to start on a winning note. The franchise has a blend of youth and experience, even though the focus will be on Harmanpreet.
Having managed to rope in the India captain for a rather cheap Rs 1.8 crore in the auction, Mumbai brought on board some other international stars - including Nat Sciver-Brunt, Amelia Kerr, and Hayley Matthews. And, in a long tournament, their experience will come in handy for the Mumbai outfit.
Most importantly, the franchise has made sure that it has the right balance in the death bowling with Sciver-Brunt , Pooja Vastrakar and Heather Graham around. That not only bolsters its bowling department, but also gives the cushion to the uncapped Indian players like Sonam Yadav and Neelam Bisht.
The team has had a long training session with the uncapped players recently and now that they know the conditions well, expectations are high.
Gujarat Giants, too, has a formidable unit with Beth Mooney as the leader. The team has a heavy Australian presence with Mooney as the captain, Rachel Haynes as the head coach and Ashleigh Gardner and Annabel Sutherland around. There is enough depth in the batting with Mooney at the top and Deandra Dottin or Sophia Dunkley, or Sushma Verma around. The presence of S. Meghana also adds value to the team, that looks well-balanced and confident.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve only been here for 36 hours. I met the coaching staff and the players. Everyone’s very excited to get going. I’m absolutely thrilled and pumped to be here and be a part of the first game,” said Mooney, who is the No. 1 T20 batter in the world.
The Australian had travelled to India in December last year for a five-match T20I series and now that she is part of the inaugural WPL, Mooney is overjoyed. “I was fortunate to be here back in December playing at this very ground in the India-Australia series. We’re at the end of our season in the Australia team. We’ve all played enough cricket and are absolutely ready to go. It will be challenging in what’s going to be a really tough competition. We’ve been crying out for a tournament like this in women’s cricket for a long time. So, to be sitting here the night before for the first game, I couldn’t be more ready,” said Mooney, hoping that her team starts off perfectly.
For most international cricketers, the last few days have been incredibly busy - travelling from one corner of the world to another - but as they gear up to be part of history, none of them is complaining. A premier league for women cricketers was in the pipe line for years, and finally, the ball is set to roll!
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