Harmanpreet Kaur’s Mumbai Indians (MI) have been head and shoulders above their title rivals in the league stage of the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL). Leading the Mumbai Paltan from the front, Harmanpreet played a scintillating knock of 51 (30 balls) to make sure MI hammer the Gujarat Giants in match No.12 of the WPL 2023 at the Brabourne Stadium. Harmanpreet-inspired Mumbai crushed Gujarat Gianst by 55 runs to register their fifth-successive win in the league stage of the WPL.
With the resounding win over the Gujarat-based franchise, Harmanpreet’s MI not only extended their winning run to five straight matches, but the Women In Blue also became the first team to enter the playoff stage of the WPL this season. Title contenders Mumbai Indians are two points ahead of second-placed Delhi Capitals (DC). Harmanpreet’s side has picked up six more points than third-placed UP Warriorz from five league matches.
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With Mumbai Indians heading to the business end of the competition as clear title favourites, former Indian cricketer Saba Karim feels tables can turn for Harmanpreet and Co. in the playoff stage of the elite tournament. Responding to a Hindustan Times query during a special interaction organised by JioCinema, former Indian cricketer Karim explained why it is too early to label MI as overwhelming favourites for the WPL 2023 playoffs.
“The knockouts are different ball game altogether. They have already qualified for the knockouts but once the playoffs starts – there are couple of teams like Delhi Capitals and UP Warrior that I feel at this stage are quite formidable to give Mumbai Indians some kind of competition or fight,” said Karim, who played 34 One Day Internationals (ODIs) for India.
The former Indian cricketer and full-time cricket pundit also acknowledged the rapid rise of Saika Ishaque in the WPL. Ishaque, who comes from a humble background, has been a revelation for Harmanpreet and Co. at the WPL. Ishaque remained the leading wicket-taker in the first five matches of the elite tournament. The MI star has bagged 12 wickets so far this season.
“Well, I looked at some of the young domestic talents. Saika Ishaque has been highly impressive, she comes from Bengal. A left arm-spinner and good to see her taking so much responsibility. On so many occasions, I think in all the MI games she has bowled in the powerplay, which is not an easy task. And there have been some interesting battles between Saika Ishaque and some of the top overseas batters. And the way he has grown as the tournament has progressed, it’s been wonderful to see her growth as a left-arm spinner and also as a player in terms of temperament. So that’s from India,” Karim said.
Karim, who is also a WPL Expert for JioCinema and Sports18, hailed veteran Australian cricketer Meg Lanning for her remarkable performances as the leader of the Delhi Capitals franchise. Averaging over 55.25 so far this season, Lanning has amassed 221 runs in the first five matches of the WPL 2023. Australia’s Lanning is also the current leading run-getter at the WPL. Before joining the DC camp for WPL, Lanning had guided Australia to its record-extending sixth title at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup title in South Africa.
“I’m very impressed by Meg Lanning. I think the way she has led the Delhi Capitals franchise – It is not easy for an overseas player to come in and take that kind of responsibility. I’m sure that she has a decent core of people to help her. But decision-making on the field, the way she has moved around her players, the kind of rotation of bowlers when I see, and the way she has conducted herself as a batter and captain have been remarkable,” Karim concluded.