It’s no secret that Mumbai Indians have been the most successful IPL franchise over the years, with five titles to their name. It can’t merely be a coincidence that the franchise has also become the most dominant team in the inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League and the first one to reach the playoffs.
Cast your mind back to the headlines that RCB garnered after making Smriti Mandhana the most expensive player of the WPL auction at Rs 3.40 crore. On top of that, they splurged Rs 1.90 crore for wicket-keeper batter Richa Ghosh and an additional Rs 1.7 crore for star all-rounder Ellyse Perry.
Just these three players add up to Rs 7 crore which is more than half the allocated team budget of Rs 12 crore – 58.33% to be precise. You can’t simply be spending this much for a handful of players and expect the other slots to take care of themselves.
In contrast to RCB’s strategy, Mumbai Indians’ plan at the auction table was much more refined. Frankly, they were also assisted by some luck as MI pushed RCB right upto Rs 3.2 crore for Mandhana before backing off, perhaps at the most opportune time.
They also got one of the steals of the auctions, roping in Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur for just Rs 1.80 crores which might be shocking for many but isn’t really surprising for those following the IPL auctions over the years as these peculiar auction dynamics play out every season and churn out head-scratchers.
While Mumbai did benefit from the auction dynamics, they were meticulous in their planning as well, picking up extremely talented but under-rated overseas cricketers like Hayley Matthews, who has really been a revelation.
Amelia Kerr, likewise, is one of the most skillful all-rounders in women’s cricket. Similarly, Issy Wong is among the fastest bowlers in the global game.
On the other hand, a team like RCB went for star value and paid the price for it.
It would require a herculean effort from one of the other four teams, most likely Delhi Capitals, to stop the MI juggernaut which has already landed them in the playoffs.
A look at the Mumbai Indians line-up and you realise that with the exception of wicket-keeper Yastika Bhatia, almost all batters are capable of chipping in with the ball and most bowlers have the ability to produce useful cameos with the bat – a common theme among T20 powerhouses like Australia and England.
In fact, in the WPL curtain raiser itself, Mumbai employed seven bowlers and ended up blowing away Gujarat Giants for just 64 after posting a mammoth target of 208.
If anyone deserved a pay cheque upwards of Rs 3 crore, despite the budget constraints, it had to be world class all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt. The heroics that she has produced in the competition were always expected but the master stroke from the Mumbai Indians backroom staff was picking Hayley Matthews whom they surprisingly got for her base price.
The West Indian captain has been absolutely sensational with both bat and ball and is perhaps Mumbai’s most crucial player at the moment.
Not only the starting XI, MI have managed some handy backup options as well. Chloe Tryon has been in great form of late, as India found out in the final of the tri-series just before the T20 World Cup. The South African has the highest T20 strike rate (137) among batters with a minimum of 1,000 runs.
Medium pace bowling all-rounder Heather Graham’s consistency in the Women’s Big Bash League over the years is also well known to those following women’s cricket religiously.
Ishaque, who is one of only five bowlers to have picked up a four-wicket haul in the competition, has not only emerged as Mumbai’s most successful bowler but will now be mounting pressure on the likes of Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav for a place in the Indian team. The way Mumbai snaffled her up on the auction table despite not many remarkable performances in the domestic circuit recently is a testament to their research and the reason behind their consistent success over the years in IPL.
The aggressive and unabashed leadership style of Harmanpreet Kaur has come like a breath of fresh air for women’s cricket in India. Not to forget her explosive contributions with the bat. What also deserves mention here is the astute management from Mumbai’s Fab Four of head coach Charlotte Edwards, batting coach Devika Palshikar, bowling coach-cum-mentor Jhulan Goswami and fielding coach Lydia Greenway.
It was the men in blue, led by the late great Shane Warne, who lifted the inaugural trophy of the men’s IPL back in 2008. It’s already more than likely that the women in blue, led by India’s very own Harmanpreet Kaur, will go on to do the same, come the maiden WPL final on March 26.
Mumbai Indians spinner Saika Ishaque sits at the top of the wicket-taking charts with 12 wickets so far in four games. Her best performance so far in the series was 4/11, as she has bowled at an average of 6.91 and an economy rate of 5.85.
UPW’s Sophie Ecclestone and DC’s Shikha Pandey follow Ishaque in the top wicket-takers charts.