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Youngsters go for glory as WPL kicks off with Mumbai-Delhi face-off

Updated on: 22 February,2024 01:16 PM IST  |  New Delhi
mid-day online correspondent |

The Indians will be hoping to hog some of the limelight this year as the tournament takes a multi-city format shape

Youngsters go for glory as WPL kicks off with Mumbai-Delhi face-off

Amanjot Kaur spending time in the nets to familiarize herself with the conditions in Bengaluru (Pic: Mumbai Indians)

The WPL 2024, beginning on Friday with a high-profile match between defending champions Mumbai Indians and runners-up Delhi Capitals, will be about meeting its existential purpose of giving a wider platform to promising home-grown talents.

The foreign stars glittered brightly in the inaugural edition held in Mumbai, and the Indians will be hoping to hog some of the limelight this year as the tournament takes a multi-city format shape with New Delhi being the other host city.

While Capitals' skipper Meg Lanning, who has now retired from international cricket, took the Orange Cap last year for the highest run-getter, the Purple Cap went to Hayley Matthews of Mumbai for taking 16 wickets.

Amid this surge of overseas players, the Indian cricketers generally struggled for consistency and impact in the previous year, but now some of the young domestic stars will eye the WPL 2024 with genuine hope.

Let's take Shreyanka Patil of Royal Challengers Bangalore as a case in point. During WPL 2023, she was a wide-eyed young cricketer who was awestruck to rub shoulders with some of the finest names in women's cricket.

She played seven matches, but the spotlight was understandably on players such as Smriti Mandhana or Ellyse Perry or Sophie Devine.

But in the last 10 months or so, Patil has built a place of her own. She earned her maiden India cap in both Test and ODIs in December last year, besides making her mark in the Caribbean Premier League for the Guyana Amazon Warriors.

In this interim, the 21-year-old has also added more arrows to her quiver in the form of power-hitting at the death overs.

Titas Sadhu of Delhi Capitals offers a similar story. Sadhu did not get a single game despite being in the squad but this year the West Bengal player has a changed profile.

After making her India debut in the Hangzhou Asian Games against Bangladesh, the 19-year-old has grown in stature.

The medium pacer's 4-1-6-3 spell helped India beat Sri Lanka in the Asian Games final while defending a meagre target of 117.

Sadhu proved that that performance was no flash in the pan when she grabbed four for 17 against Australia in Mumbai last month, powering India to a rare T20I win over the Aussies.

So, it will be hard for Delhi management to overlook her claim to be in the starting eleven against Mumbai, or at least in a few subsequent matches.

The Capitals also have in their ranks a talent who is eager to stamp her mark in the WPL, Minnu Mani.

The Kerala cricketer is the first player from her state to sign a WPL contract, but her participation last year was limited to just three matches and two innings to bat.

But since then, Minnu has appeared in four WT20Is for India and has shown promise with her crafty off-break bowling.

While it is certain that her brand of bowling will be put to test at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Minnu has a big chance to brave the odds and make a mighty impression which only adds more torque to her forward journey.

But then the tournament is not just about contenders, it is also about the trailblazers.

The outings of Harmanpreet Kaur, who will have to tame expectations that are generally placed on the title holders, Mandhana, who has the onerous task of landing RCB a maiden title across WPL and IPL, and the UP Warriorz duo of Alyssa Healy and Chamari Athapaththu, two of the best women batters in contemporary game, will be closely watched.

Then there are the second line of players like Jemimah Rodrigues (Delhi) and Deepti Sharma (UP) who come with the Hundred and Big Bash experience behind them.

But they could not set the field ablaze in WPL 1 and they would want to write a fresh storyline this time. So, there are reputations to be protected and new ones to be made and that could just fuel women's cricket's own Le Mans for the next fortnight.

(With agency inputs)

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