Women's Premier League (WPL) 2023: Injured captain, pointless team selection caps sub-standard season for Gujarat Giants. Gujarat finished at the bottom of the points table with 2 wins from 8 games.
The cheeky boundary from Sophie Ecclestone advanced UP Warriorz into the eliminator of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) 2023 as Gujarat Giants (GG) who were already out of the tournament because of their poor performances in all departments of the game, ended this season on a poor note.
Gujarat Giants who were sold for INR 1289 crore, the highest among all the franchises of the tournament, finished the season at the bottom of the table with just couple of victories in eight games at a net run rate (NRR) of -2.22.
Ashleigh Gardner was their top run-scorer of the tournament with 204 runs in eight games at an average of 29.14 and strike rate of 141.66 including couple of fifties with a best score of 60. In the bowling department, Kim Garth was their highest wicket-taker with 11 wickets in seven games at an average of 17.54 and economy rate of 7.72 including best figures of 5/36.
Bad form and poor thinking behind inconsistent journey of Gujarat Giants
In a long tournament, the vital scenario for any team would be starting on a bright note but the Gujarat Giants began their journey perhaps in the worst possible manner. Deciding to bowl first against Mumbai Indians Women (MI-W) in their opening game, the Giants were smashed all around the park for 207/5 in 20 overs before registering a 143-run defeat because of being bundled out for 64 in 15.1 overs. With their designated captain, Beth Mooney already out of the tournament due to injury, Giants lost their second consecutive game of the season against UP Warriorz (UP-W) by three wickets.
Their first victory by 11 runs was recorded against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB-W) when Sophia Dunkley and Harleen Deol powered them to 201/7 in 20 overs before their bowlers restricted RCB to 190/6 in 20 overs. Again, they suffered another huge loss against Delhi Capitals Women (DC-W) who chased down 107 in just 7.1 overs without losing any wicket. They were nowhere near Mumbai Indians who handed Gujarat their fourth loss of the season by 55 runs. Quite surprisingly, their impressive performance of destroying Delhi Capitals for 136 runs gifted Gujarat a 11 run win.
But they were again hammered by Royal Challengers Bangalore who chased down 189 in just 15.3 overs to end the WPL journey of Gujarat Giants who later lost their last game of the season against UP Warriorz by three wickets.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why Gujarat Giants had an up and down journey in the maiden edition of Women’s Premier League (WPL) 2023.
Absence of leader Beth Mooney early in WPL
Gujarat Giants opted to give veteran Beth Mooney the captaincy duties, who has all the skills to gel a young side with her experience. Besides that, Mooney has been an excellent opening batter who bats with real aggression from the start of an innings.
Mooney has 2,350 WT20I runs in 83 games at an average of 40.51 and strike rate of 124.60 with 18 fifties and couple of centuries. She had all the capabilities to be the difference in crunch games.
But in their opening game against Mumbai Indians, Mooney after dabbing a good length delivery in front of the cover point fielder, looked for a single but was sent back by her partner Sabbhineni Meghana. At the moment of turning back, Mooney twisted her ankle as she looked to be in tremendous pain when the physio was attending to her in the middle of the ground. After feeling uncomfortable, the medical staff decided to take her off the field as the Gujarat Giants suffered a huge lose watching their best batter being carried away to the dressing room.
The batting order didn’t click at all in the rest of the games as they were bundled out for just 64, handing Mumbai a famous 143-run victory. Sneh Rana was appointed as the stand-in captain for the rest of the tournament but she didn’t have the experience of leading a side at that level of the game and that too at a short notice.
The result is before the whole world as Gujarat Giants from their very first game of the season failed to create a solid balance in the side.
Experienced overseas and India players were woefully out of form
One of the biggest expectations for the Gujarat Giants franchise was from their experienced overseas player, Ashleigh Gardner, who has 1176 WT20I runs in 73 games at an average of 28 and strike rate of 132.43 with six fifties. But she didn’t fire at the start of the tournament.
Gardner began her WPL journey with a first-ball duck as going for a cut shot to a hard length delivery, she was caught in the hands of Hayley Matthews at the point region. She scored 25 runs in 19 balls against UP Warriorz before scoring just 19 runs in 15 balls against RCB-W. She had another poor knock of a golden duck against Delhi Capitals. By the time, she cracked her maiden WPL fifty in 33 balls, Gujarat Giants had already suffered heavy losses in the competition.
Gardner notched up a 26-ball 41 against RCB-W before finishing the tournament on a high note against UP Warriorz with a 60-run knock in 39 balls. Even though, she scored 204 runs in eight games of the competition, it was too late for Gujarat Giants.
Sophia Dunkley wasn’t part of the opening game but with Mooney’s injury, when she made her first appearance against UP Warriorz, she fired up against Royal Challengers Bangalore with 65 runs in just 28 balls. She failed in her next game against Mumbai Indians with a golden duck. The inconsistency throughout the whole season saw her ending the tournament with 121 runs in six games at an average of 20.16 and strike rate of 175.36.
The same story goes with Sneh Rana, who failed to score aggressively at the later stage of the innings with just 34 runs in eight games at an average of 8.50 and strike rate of 100. In the bowling department too, Kim Garth after taking five wickets against UP Warriorz, picked up just six more wickets in her next six games. The Indian bowlers too didn’t have a great season.
A season of baseless chopping and changing
Besides their poor performances in all the three departments of the game, it was a season of baseless chopping and changing for the Gujarat Giants. They had just one win from their first five games but even with some great heads like Rachael Haynes and Mithali Raj sitting in the dug-out, some of their decisions were poor.
Sophia Dunkley scored a lightning 65-run knock in just 28 balls at a strike rate of 232.14 with the help of 11 boundaries and three sixes against Royal Challengers Bangalore but was dropped from their very next game against Delhi Capitals. The team management decided to give a chance to young South African Laura Wolvaardt. After her first poor game, Wolvaardt too was dropped from the side without any thinking.
“Gujarat have multi-fold problems; you are first surprised. How can a team having Rachael Haynes and Mithali Raj have such poor thinking? I am talking about the thinking and not the approach, playing style or performances,” former India player Aakash Chopra slammed the team management of the Gujarat Giants.
"It just seems cluttered. Sophia Dunkley was in good form, she was the Player of the Match, and you dropped her,” Chopra questioned. “You play Laura Wolvaardt with confidence in the next match, you feel she will do good, but you drop her when she gets out and bring back Sophia.”
On the flip of the coin, they had an inner issue with Deandra Dottin’s injury status too. But they will hope to comeback stronger in the next season with more energy and good planning.
The finale of Women’s Premier League (WPL) 2023 between Delhi Capitals Women (DCW) and Mumbai Indians Women (MIW) will now be played on March 26 at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.