It has been only two matches, but Mumbai Indians look like the team to beat at the WPL
Shashwat Kumar was in Brabourne Stadium as Mumbai Indians cruised to their second successive victory – the sort of win that makes you wonder whether they have already become the team to beat in this inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League.
The inaugural edition of any tournament comes with its share of uncertainties, and the WPL was no different. Almost every team had world-class players in their ranks but not many knew how they would gel together, and how quickly they would crack the WPL code. Four games into the season, it feels that Mumbai are quite close to the latter.
On Monday, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, they were asked to bowl, after they had batted first against the Gujarat Giants in their opener. In neither scenario did they feel out of place: their bowlers stuck to their guns, bowled tight lines and forced mistakes out of batters.
Part of that comes with the confidence of having several bowlers in the line-up. Of the XI that played against Royal Challengers Bangalore, almost everyone barring wicketkeeper Yastika Bhatia was capable of contributing with the ball. Harmanpreet Kaur needed to use only seven of them. Pooja Vastrakar, who has opened bowling for India, needed to bowl a solitary over.
If you thought that was absurd, take a look at their batting unit. The gifted Bhatia may not be the most belligerent left-handed hitter at the top, but she can be used anywhere in the order. Hayley Matthews, surprisingly picked up at her base price, has not missed a beat at the top of the order. Nat Sciver-Brunt is an excellent stroke-maker and knows how to handle herself on the big stage.
Both Matthews and Sciver-Brunt, by the way, notched up half-centuries against Royal Challengers Bangalore. And…they barely broke into a sweat.
And even that is not all (sorry for being repetitive but this). Amelia Kerr bats in the top three for New Zealand, and is capable across different phases. Vastrakar has been regularly used by India as a death-overs hitter. Issy Wong can hit sixes too. Oh, and Kaur is perhaps the greatest batter to have played T20Is for India Women – and she can bowl too.
What about the bench? Their bench is pretty strong as well. With a 1,000-run cut-off, Chloe Tryon has the highest T20I strike rate in the world (137), but she is yet to get a game. If Mumbai decide to rest Wong, they can call upon Heather Graham, who enjoyed success on these shores in December 2022.
Much of this, however, was known to a lot of people before the WPL. At that juncture, the question was whether they could blend these champions into a winning concoction. It has been only two matches, but Mumbai seem to have cracked the code, which should worry the rest of the chasing pack.
Not only are they winning games, but they are doing so with an ease you usually associate with champions. Of course, sterner tests await them in the WPL but even at this early stage, it is hard to glance past them as favourites, or indeed as the team to beat.
Two matches is usually not a lot to determine how far a team will go, but in this case, considering how ruthless, clinical and strong Mumbai Indians have been, it seems quite a lot.