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The inaugural season of the WPL ended with a thrilling finale as Mumbai Indians emerged victorious, claiming the title despite facing a tough challenge from the Delhi Capitals. The five-team competition culminated on Sunday with India and Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur finally leading a side to triumphant glory as Mumbai crossed the line with 7 wickets and 3 balls to spare.

In a nervy summit clash between the two best teams of the WPL, Mumbai spinners and the experienced duo of Nat Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet Kaur guided Mumbai Indians to the title. With Issy Wong picking up the first three wickets and Mumbai spinners Hayley Matthews, Saika Ishaque and Melie Kerr keeping things tight, the Delhi Capitals kept losing wickets regularly that saw them slide to 79/9. But in a rousing fightback, Radha Yadav and Shikha Pandey added 52 runs off just 24 balls in a thrilling 10th wicket stand. With both of them finishing unbeaten on 27 each, the Delhi side reached a respectable total of 131.

Despite the modest target, the Mumbai Indians suffered a few early jolts and at 27/2 they had their second worst power-play of the WPL season. But a crucial partnership of 72 between Sciver-Brunt who hit a half-century and Harmanpreet, who got a vital 37, set MI on the road to victory.

Besides the grand finale, the WPL made a captivating debut and promised a bright future for young, aspiring female cricketers in India. Mumbai Indians’ Saika Ishaque who took 15 wickets was the outstanding find among Indian talents. Though she lost the Purple Cap by just one wicket to her MI teammate Hayley Matthews, leftarm spinner Ishaque took the scalps of some of the world’s finest batters through the season though she had a modest spell in the final.

While WPL did not throw up a huge number of young talents, Shreyanka Patil and Kanika Ahuja of Royal Challengers Bangalore made their mark on the big stage. While 20-year-old Ahuja showed raw talent at a young age with her explosive batting, Patil’s energy and enthusiasm in the field was quite impressive. Also, Yastika Bhatia from Mumbai became the emerging player and won Rs 5 lakhs in prize money.

However, there was a clear gap between those from the Indian domestic circuit and the world’s best players who dominated the WPL. As Harmanpreet rightly acknowledged, little-known Indian players did not get many roles and opportunities to play in the first season of WPL. But experts believe that in the long-run young and uncapped Indian players would emerge wiser from the experience of playing with the best and sharing dressing rooms with the most knowledgeable players in the world and gradually this will help them realize what they need to do to improve their skills.

Beyond young talents, some senior domestic players have also grabbed at the opportunity afforded by the WPL to showcase their skills and give their careers a boost. Among these, 33-year-old pacer Shikha Pandey was the most notable. The veteran pacer has often been ignored quite inexplicably but her 10 wickets for Delhi Capitals were seven more than the next-best Indian pace bowler. In addition, her power-hitting in the last wicket partnership in the WPL final, reflected Pandey’s huge utility. RCB’s 32-year-old spinner Asha Joy and 30-yearold wicket-keeper-batter Sushama Verma, who last played for India in 2020, are some of the other nearly-forgotten players for whom the WPL offered a great chance to show the selectors what they are missing and keep their national hopes alive!

The women’s version of the Indian Premier League has been a massive commercial success and the WPL has become the second-most lucrative domestic women’s sports competition after US professional basketball. The way the tournament was conducted, the response to the matches and the superb TV ratings made the WPL seem like a festival for women’s cricket. Now, the effort should be that this momentum is maintained going further so that the league can be a ‘game changer’ for women’s cricket in the years to come.

Interestingly, it was just 3 years after the IPL in 2008 that the Indian Men’s team lifted the ODI World Cup in 2011. Cricket pundits believe that IPL exposure had a huge role in getting the team ready for tense situations. Indian Women’s team would also hope that WPL gives them the much needed edge, both in terms of unearthing fresh talent from within the country and making them mentally stronger for knockout games in ICC championships, one which has been their Achilles heel in the last few years!


SIDDHAARTH MAHAN The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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