WPL 2023: Down-and-out RCB meets UP Warriorz in must-win clash

It’s that time of the season when a Royal Challengers Bangalore fan whips out their calculator and hopes for the best for their team. With losses in all its four games so far, RCB now stares a bunch of math, counting on good performances and a whole lot of good luck to make the playoffs of the inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League.

So how can RCB realistically make it to the top three, as things stand?

For starters, Smriti Mandhana’s band of stars need a win against the UP Warriorz at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday.

HOW CAN RCB QUALIFY FOR PLAYOFFS? (Without factoring a NRR situation)

1. If RCB wins its last three fixtures, it can stand a chance to close out the top three

2. MI needs to win all its game except the reverse fixture vs RCB

3. Delhi Capitals should lose only to Mumbai Indians

4. Gujarat Giants need to pull off a win over UP Warriorz to shake their proximity to the third place position on the table

Warriorz getting the basics right

At the auction table, UP Warriorz came off as a team with an interesting blend of Indian and foreign talent. This is a mix that has held the team in good stead through a rocky WPL campaign thus far. In four games, the Warriorz have two wins and two losses — the losses coming against dominant looking Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals outfits.

Results irrespective, a standout aspect of UP’s campaign so far has been their faith in the Indian talents in the squad,. Skipper Alyssa Healy has made strategic changes but that’s always been in the foreign core. The Indians have enjoyed a long rope – with Deepti Sharma in particular getting ample time to find her groove in the season. Shweta Sehrawat has been a deer in headlights this season, unable to replicate her form from the U19 World Cup in South Africa. While the UP management has moved her down the batting order, in order to stabilise a shaky top, Shweta remains in the line-up, with the team keen to help her internalise that she has their support.

UP Warrioz will hope to do the double over RCB in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League.

UP Warrioz will hope to do the double over RCB in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League.

Tweaking its horses for courses approach

Healy’s hardest choice this season has been with regard to deploying Grace Harris and Shabnim Ismail. The two are not like-for-like players and have had to be roled in and out of the playing XI depending on opponent and surface. Harris was the star of a resurgent chase by the Warriorz against Gujarat Giants in the first match. Their second win came against an unsteady RCB side in their first meeting this season. This game saw Healy place complete faith in her spinners with UP using just three overs of pace from Anjali Sarvani throughout the game. The result was a 10-wicket drubbing of the Royal Challengers.

DY Patil Stadium’s wicket has still continued to evenly offer something for both bowlers and batters but as the wickets wear out due to the miniscule turnaround time between matchdays, the 200+ scores aren’t as frequent as they were at the start. UP’s malleable spin contingent is a major trump card in these conditions. However, Healy and Co. need to nail their matchups and team choices going forward should they want to pip RCB and Gujarat Giants to become the third team alongside a confident Mumbai and Delhi Capitals unit.

Talent good, execution not good enough

While speaking to broadcasters during one of the mid-game segments, RCB coach Ben Sawyer said that RCB’s problems did not lie in strategy but in setting plans to action. RCB has the whose who of T20 cricket in its ranks – World Cup winners Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Heather Knight and T20 globetrotters Sophie Devine and Dane van Niekerk. The bowling has a blend of experienced internationals and feisty rookies. However, there is no satisfying click when these departments sit down to stitch a performance. The incongruence ends up feeling like nails on a chalkboard for the franchise which is now languishing at the bottom of the table after being one of the most promising squads to emerge from the auction.

UP’s tryst with Murphy’s Law

According to Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. While UPW vs MI was a lopsided fixture going on form and momentum, Alyssa Healy’s side also had a fair amount of bad luck during the game. An LBW opportunity which should not have been out was declared so and then taken away from UP but more frustrating would have been when Harman looked bowled but the bail did not move. UP will hope for better luck as it seeks to make short work of RCB.

Has RCB run out of Aces?

RCB has tried SO MANY strategies – swapping out Schutt, backing uncapped/domestic bowling talents, tweaking the batting order and approach. None have worked thus far. The one card the side has not dealt is the induction of van Niekerk who, it is understood, had decided to walk away from international cricket this past week.

In the 29-year-old, RCB has a potent but unused leg spinning allrounder who can be what this side needs as the tournament finally makes way for some dividends for bowlers. She also presents Smriti a new person on the field to rely on to help juggle a team of extremes – especially if she’s looking for fresh perspective.

Smriti’s own form is a concern and like her other poor patches, she’s going to have to grind this one out as a fluent Smriti at the top of this RCB lineup could be what ties up the individual shows of brilliance from the likes of Perry, Devine and Richa Ghosh together.

All eyes will be on the squads of both teams to see how the minor tweaks change the way the wind blows in this fixture.


RCB: Smriti Mandhana(c), Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Disha Kasat, Richa Ghosh(w), Heather Knight, Kanika Ahuja, Asha Shobana, Megan Schutt, Preeti Bose, Renuka Thakur Singh, Dane van Niekerk, Indrani Roy, Erin Burns, Poonam Khemnar, Sahana Pawar, Shreyanka Patil, Komal Zanzad

UP WARRIORZ: Alyssa Healy(w/c), Shweta Sehrawat, Kiran Navgire, Tahlia McGrath, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Simran Shaikh, Sophie Ecclestone, Shabnim Ismail, Anjali Sarvani, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Grace Harris, Lauren Bell, Shivali Shinde, Parshavi Chopra, Soppadhandi Yashasri

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