WPL 2023: Dominant Mumbai’s moment of glory

The final of the Women’s Premier League was a full house and for a match starting at 3.30pm on a weekday, more than 30,000 turned up.

Published : Mar 31, 2023 12:39 IST - 4 MINS READ

Champion stuff: The triumphant Mumbai Indians, which won the inaugural Women’s Premier League.
Champion stuff: The triumphant Mumbai Indians, which won the inaugural Women’s Premier League. | Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Champion stuff: The triumphant Mumbai Indians, which won the inaugural Women’s Premier League. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Manisha Masand, though a cricket fan, had never followed the women’s game till the Women’s Premier League got underway at Navi Mumbai’s D.Y. Patil Stadium on March 4. But, she watched almost every match of the WPL. And she loved every moment of it.

It is not just this young homemaker from Mumbai who has shown interest in women’s cricket and found out how exciting it could be. The massive crowds — the final was a full house and for a match starting at 3.30 p.m. on a week day more than 30,000 turned up — and the large number of eyeballs for live telecast — prove that women’s cricket is going to get bigger in India, and by extension across the world.

The BCCI had been toying with the idea of a franchise-based league for women for quite some time. It had been conducting a trial run, called the Women’s T20 Challenge, since 2018. The world’s richest cricket body delayed the WPL because it wasn’t sure if India was ready. There were doubts, for instance, if the bench was strong enough.

Such doubts were smashed out of the Brabourne and D.Y. Patil grounds by uncapped India players — a mix of youth and experience. Mumbai Indians’ Saika Ishaque, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Shreyanka Patil, S. Asha and Kanika Ahuja, UP Warriorz’s Parshavi Chopra and Gujarat Giants’ Tanuja Kanwar found themselves in the limelight during the WPL. All those names would not have sounded familiar unless you were tracking the women’s domestic cricket closely.

When you consider the fact India cricketers like Meghna Singh and Priya Punia had gone unsold at the auction, you would get a fair idea about the bench strength. It is bound to get stronger after the success of the maiden season of the WPL.

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The tournament had got underway with Mumbai Indians beginning its campaign in a majestic manner against Gujarat Giants. Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s sensational 30-ball 65 — she didn’t hit a single six: she didn’t need to, such was her timing and placement — was the highlight of MI’s crushing 143-run victory after scoring 207 for five.

Die-hard fans: Mumbai India fans shortly after their team’s victory.
Die-hard fans: Mumbai India fans shortly after their team’s victory. | Photo Credit: P. K. Ajith Kumar
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Die-hard fans: Mumbai India fans shortly after their team’s victory. | Photo Credit: P. K. Ajith Kumar

The tournament’s last win, too, was posted by MI. Harmanpreet’s women were the most deserving champions. In the final, they overcame the tournament’s second-best side, Delhi Capitals.

In front of a passionate, loud home crowd, MI won by seven wickets with three balls to spare. When Capitals collapsed to 79 for nine, with just four overs remaining, it seemed the WPL would end with a disappointingly one-sided match, even if MI was going to win at home. What followed was a stunning counter-attack.

Shikha Pandey and Radha Yadav smashed 52 off just 24 balls for the unfinished 10th wicket, both striking the ball beautifully. Both remained unbeaten on 27 runs.

That gave themselves and other bowlers something to bowl with against an MI side that batted deep. MI lost both openers — Hayley Matthews and Yastika Bhatia — early but a third-wicket stand of 72 between Nat Sciver-Brunt (60 not out, 55 balls ) and Harmanpreet Kaur (37, 39 balls) took their side closer to the target.

Capitals’ hopes must have soared when the equation became 21 off the last two overs. But Sciver-Brunt, in the company of Amelia Kerr, took MI home. It was for the second night in a row that the England all-rounder was playing a match-winning innings. She was also the star in MI’s 72-run win against UP Warriorz in the Eliminator.

The Alyssa Healy-led, spin-heavy Warriorz did well to make the playoffs, while Royal Challengers Bangalore, which had managed to rope in the largest number of superstars including Smriti Mandhana, Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine, Heather Knight, Megan Schutt, Richa Ghosh and Renuka Singh at the auction, could win just two of its eight games. Gujarat Giants, too, had to be content with only two victories, but it was unlucky to lose its captain and best batter Beth Mooney to injury in the opening game itself.

Though Mooney returned home early, many of her fellow-Australians, like Lanning and Jess Jonnasen (Capitals), Healy, Tahlia McGrath and Grace Harris (Warriorz), Ashleigh Gardner and Kim Garth (Giants) and Perry (RCB) had a memorable time. The WBBL is one of the reasons for Australia’s dominance in women’s cricket. India is sure to benefit from the WPL.

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