Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet Kaur exchanged smiles and happily posed for pictures with the Women’s Premier League (WPL) trophy on the eve of the much-awaited final. The two addressed the media jointly and then walked around the Brabourne Stadium, obliging the television crew with video bytes and pictures.
Even as the temperature soared on Saturday afternoon, both Lanning and Harmanpreet looked nonchalant and clearly, were under no pressure ahead of the summit clash between Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians.
Over the last few years, Harmanpreet and Lanning have met each other in a tournament final twice - the T20 World Cup in 2020 and the Commonwealth Games final last year - donning the Indian and Australian colours respectively. And on both the occasions, Lanning’s team came out victorious.
However, Harmanpreet clarified that she will walk onto the field on Sunday, without thinking about the past and will focus on clinching the title for Mumbai Indians.
“This is a different scenario, our team is doing well and so is Meg Lanning’s team. Whatever happened is in the past and we cannot change that. We want to do well in the future,” Harmanpreet said with a smile as Lanning looked on.
Having led Delhi Capitals from the front, the soft-spoken Lanning also aims for a perfect finish after displaying high-intensity cricket over the last fortnight. Delhi Capitals dominated the second half of the tournament and stormed straight into the final in style, while Mumbai Indians came into the final riding on an all-round team effort against UP Warriorz in the eliminator.
Focus on Sciver-Brunt
The other night, Mumbai banked on Nat Sciver-Brunt’s belligerent half-century to romp home, but in the final, the team will be hoping for captain Harmanpreet to step up and deliver. She started off with three half-centuries, but as the tournament progressed, the India captain has seen a dip in form with scores of 25, 23, 2 and 14. And ahead of the summit clash, Harmanpreet needs to ride on her experience and ensure that she leads from the front at the Brabourne Stadium, where Mumbai has won all three games so far.
The focus, however, will still be on Sciver-Brunt after her heroics in the eliminator. Coming in at a time when the team was precariously placed, the England international clobbered the Warriorz bowlers all around the park. The Mumbai Indians fans will be hoping for her to come out all guns blazing in the final as well.
She is the third-highest run-scorer with 272, at an enviable average of 54.40. And not just with the willow, she has also claimed 10 wickets in nine games. And this all-round brilliance makes her one of the most sought-after players in the tournament and it would be a challenge for the Capitals to stop her from going on yet another rampage.
Kapp shows the way
In the tournament so far, both Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals have been ruthless and clinical at various stages and after a rather low-profile start, the Capitals have gone on to flex muscles. And with Lanning, who dons the Orange Cap with 310 runs in her kitty, around, the team hopes to remain calm and play to its strength. While the Indian batters have been rather on and off with their performances, all-rounder Marizanne Kapp has been the top performer with 159 runs and 9 wickets in eight matches. Her all-round performances have come in handy for the Capitals in crunch times and to add to it, the young Alice Capsey has proved her mettle with some power-hitting in the middle overs.
And, when Lanning takes the field on Sunday, it would be interesting to see how she handles her players and whether she decides to bring back Tara Norris. Jemimah Rodrigues has struggled in the tournament so far, whereas Shafali Verma has failed to convert breezy starts. But both the players have immense talent and enough experience to rise to the occasion and deliver and Capitals will expect them to step up when it matters the most.
The Saika factor
However, in terms of spin bowling, Mumbai has the edge with Saika Ishaque in its ranks. The spinner from Kolkata has been the flavour of the season, providing her team with timely breakthroughs. She is just two wickets away from becoming WPL’s highest wicket-taker ahead of UP Warriorz’ Sophie Ecclestone (16), and the final will give her an opportunity to not only achieve the personal milestone, but also pave the way for the team’s victory.
Young Isabelle Wong, who claimed a hat-trick in the eliminator, too has proven her worth with 13 wickets, followed by Amelia Kerr (12 wickets).
So, when the two teams meet for one last time in this edition of the tournament, some fiery performances will certainly be on display. While Lanning would like to add the WPL trophy to her cabinet after winning the T20 World Cup in South Africa recently, for Harmanpreet, it will be an opportunity to settle scores with ‘Captain Meg’ and guide Mumbai Indians home in a packed stadium.
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