The Adani Sportsline-owned Gujarat Giants could not make the play-offs in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) but produced some noteworthy performances along the way.
Under mentor Mithali Raj and head coach Rachael Haynes, the Giants showed a lot of character in every match despite losing key players early in the season.
Plagued by injuries
At the commencement of the first-ever WPL season, the franchise suffered a massive blow as star all-rounder Deandra Dottin was ruled out due to medical reasons.
The management soon drafted in Irish-Australian fast bowler Kim Garth as Dottin’s replacement for WPL 2023.
During their opening match against the Mumbai Indians at the DY Patil Stadium on March 4, the Giants succumbed to another huge blow as captain Beth Mooney suffered a calf strain. The Australian wicketkeeper-batter was later ruled out of the remainder of the tournament as she required 4-6 weeks to regain full fitness.
In the absence of Mooney, the franchise roped in South African opener Laura Wolvaardt.
Additionally, vice-captain Sneh Rana was elevated to captain while Ashleigh Gardner was appointed Rana’s deputy for the T20 tournament.
“We lost key players early on, and it dented our composition. But despite this hiccup, the team stepped up and showed their grit and passion to win,” said mentor Mithali Raj.
A challenging start
Gujarat Giants started their WPL campaign with back-to-back defeats against Mumbai Indians and UP Warriors in their first two matches of the T20 tournament. While the Giants lost to Mumbai by 143 runs, they recorded a heartbreaking three-wicket loss against the Warriorz.
First win against RCB
However, the Sneh Rana-led Giants quickly bounced back as they defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) by 11 runs at the Brabourne Stadium.
Twin fifties from Sophia Dunkley (65) and Harleen Deol (67) powered the Giants to a mammoth score of 201/7 in their 20 overs. Later, Gardner bagged three wickets while Annabel Sutherland registered two dismissals to help the Giants restrict RCB to 190/6 in their allotted overs.
Dunkley was adjudged the Player of the Match for smashing the fastest fifty in the WPL. She took just 18 balls to reach her maiden WPL half-century.
Loss of momentum in the middle
The Giants found themselves struggling in the middle phase of the tournament. While they succumbed to a heavy defeat against Delhi Capitals at the DY Patil Stadium, the franchise once again went down to Mumbai Indians by 55 runs at Brabourne.
Despite the losses, some commendable individual performances gave our side a lot of confidence going into the second half of the competition.
Return to winning ways
We beat Delhi Capitals by 11 runs at the Brabourne to register our second victory in the inaugural WPL.
Put into bat, the Giants rode on Laura Wolvaardt’s 57 off 45 balls and Gardner’s unbeaten 33-ball 51 to post 147/4 in their 20 overs. In reply, the Capitals lost wickets at regular intervals as they were bundled out for 136.
Heartbreaking end to the campaign
Gujarat suffered another setback as they lost to RCB by eight wickets in their penultimate league match of the tournament.
The franchise later succumbed to a heartbreaking three-wicket defeat in their final league match to get knocked out of the playoffs race.
With two wins and six losses, the Giants ended the inaugural campaign with four points from eight matches.
Vice-captain Ashleigh Gardner, Harleen Deol and Kim Garth surely caught our attention in the first-ever WPL.
Gardner contributed with both bat and ball throughout the tournament. While the Australian all-rounder amassed 204 runs in eight matches at a strike rate of 141.66, she also bagged 10 wickets at an average of 25.50.
Batting at number three, Harleen also played some impressive knocks for the Giants. The 24-year-old Indian batter scored 202 runs in eight matches at an average of 28.85 and a strike rate of 125.46.
In the bowling department, Kim Garth stole the limelight with her consistent performances. The pacer picked up 11 wickets in seven matches at an economy of 7.72.
“Undoubtedly, we had our tough moments, but the team put up a riveting performance and showed a lot of character during every match. We all are taking with us many positives and pivotal life-lessons from this inaugural session,” head coach Rachael Haynes said.
With plenty of positives, the Giants will aim to bounce back stronger in the second edition of the WPL.