Table-topper Mumbai Indians will take on fourth-placed Gujarat Giants at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Having faced each other in the season opener, the Giants will be hoping to put up a better show in their first reverse fixture, given that they lost by 143 runs to Mumbai last time.
“Since we have a pretty young squad and we played the first match of the WPL (Women’s Premier League), a historic moment really, they were slightly overwhelmed by the whole thing,” said Gujarat head coach, Rachael Haynes.
However, with a captain as experienced as Harmanpreet Kaur leading it and plenty of other seasoned campaigners, Mumbai has looked like the more balanced side.
Injury concerns, a quest to find the right combination and an over-reliance on Harleen Deol at the top of the order have plagued the Giants.
More often than not, Deol has had to shoulder the responsibility of giving Gujarat a decent start. Sophia Dunkley did provide her much-needed support at the top against RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore), where she scored the fastest fifty of the tournament en route to a scintillating 65 off 28.
However, despite seeming like Gujarat had finally fixed a few of its issues, it dropped Dunkley in the next match and brought in newly-drafted Laura Wolvaardt.
“Laura was a like-for-like replacement for Beth Mooney (ruled out due to injury) given how well she has performed at the international level recently,” said Mithali Raj, Gujarat’s mentor.
While Wolvaardt was the highest run-getter in the 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup with 230 runs, sending her in a day after she joined the team mid-way through the tournament, did not yield the results the Giants perhaps expected.
On the bowling front, Mumbai has reaped the benefit of scouting Bengal player Saika Ishaque, who has been a crucial wicket-taker for it and now holds the purple cap. It was Ishaque’s 4/11 that became the talk of the town in the season opener against Gujarat. The Giants will need to go in with a plan in place for Ishaque, as it cannot afford to have its team unravel the way it did due to her exploits.
“Sneh is fit and raring to go,” said the GG team management in a press conference ahead of the fixture. Given the task they have at hand, Captain Sneh Rana and Ashleigh Gardner will have to perform to their calibre with the ball to do some damage. Especially given, that Sneh was responsible for Harmanpreet and Pooja Vastrakar’s dismissals in the last match and Gardner got the better of the dangerous Hayley Matthews.
“With the second round just beginning, our aim is to reach that number three position..the tournament is still wide open,” said coach Haynes. The coach also believes that with their record at Brabourne being better ‘the girls will go in with more confidence.’
With Gujarat hoping to claw its way to third in the table, in time for the playoffs, and Mumbai sitting comfortably at the top, the match might have more to offer than what appears at face value.