WPL 2024: MI’s Bowling Might Proves Too Hot to Handle for Gujarat Giants

Coaches and analysts in T20 cricket, over the past few years, have emphasized on a line that has not just become popular, but also been proven correct on some occasions.

“Batters win you matches, bowlers win you championships.”

On Sunday evening at Bengaluru’s M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, reigning Women’s Premier League (WPL) champions Mumbai Indians (MI) demonstrated that while there was still a long way to go before they put themselves in prime position to retain the title, they possessed a bowling attack that was the most diverse, if not arguably the best line-up of players assembled to take 10 wickets in a T20 match.

Before the start of the new season, MI already had an attack that had both youth and experience, who complemented efficiently to put their side in the ascendency in most matches of the tournament.

At the auction, they opted to add more experience to their bowling arsenal with the inclusion of South Africa’s Shabnim Ismail. At the pre-match press conference ahead of the tournament opener on Thursday, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur had emphasized the importance of the addition, which she felt made the attack more experienced.

“She is a great player and she has done well for her country and whichever leagues that she plays for. She brings in a lot of experience and she is someone who can bowl with good pace, and that’s what we have been looking for. Last year, Issy Wong gave us a lot of balance, and now this year we have another option in Shabnim. Her presence gives us that extra cushioning in bowling,” Kaur had said on Thursday.

On Sunday, Ismail proved her captain right by denting the Gujarat Giants’ batting line-up in the Powerplay, claiming Veda Krishnamurthy and Harleen Deol with incoming deliveries that struck the pads and were adjacent enough to send them back to the pavilion.

It meant that MI had exposed the GG middle-order far too early than they would have liked. With the left-handed duo of skipper Beth Mooney and Phoebe Litchfield in the middle, Kaur could now turn to the off-spin of Hayley Mathews, who had emerged as the tournament’s joint-leading wicket-taker in the inaugural edition, with 16 wickets to her name.

While the ploy did not work initially after she went for three boundaries, her introduction was a further indication of how MI had a bowler up their sleeves to combat that match-up.

When both batters fell and the right-handed heavy lower-order walked in to bat, Kaur could turn to the leg-spin of Amelia Kerr and the left-arm spin of Saika Ishaque. The former, who had erred on her lengths in the previous match, decided to sacrifice air on the ball and focus on a full length with a lack of flight on the ball, accounting for the wickets of Ashleigh Gardener and Sneh Rana – the latter with a wrong’un that slipped through both bat and pad, knocking the middle stump out of the ground.

“It (googly) is something I practice; it’s a useful option in T20 cricket, especially against left-handers.”

“When you are bowling later on in the innings, you can get hit but also get wickets. For me, it is about working out the conditions and going to variations. It came out well tonight,” Kerr, who won the player of the match award for her all-around show on Sunday, said at the post-match press conference.

In addition to the presence of an experienced new ball seamer, two different finger spinners, and a wrist spinner, Kaur also possesses the luxury of using Natalie Sciver-Brunt, as and when the need arises.

Ask any captain or a coach what they crave for in a T20 side, and most would say it is the presence of a top-order batter who can chip in with the ball. In Sciver-Brunt, MI have that option. It is why, despite the season having just started, they remain top contenders to go deep in the tournament.

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