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Aayush Mahajan ∙ Mar 17 2023, 7:00 AM

Saika Ishaques, Shreyanka Patils, Issy Wongs Dress WPL for Success


image-lfbfkxl9Shreyanka Patil has been an impressive youngster for RCB (Source: Twitter)

When the Board of Control for Cricket in India introduced the Women's Premier League (WPL) after they were put in the line of fire for delaying it to a point that the waiting became unbearable for the fans as well as the players, the announcement chimed in an epiphany.

Are we all shooting in the dark? Are we making castles in the air? Are we living in a fool's paradise?

As I started to adumbrate the fate of the tournament, vast complications mounted over the surface. To even hope that the season would be a decent success, forget a smashing fit, suddenly seemed far-fetched.

The women's cricket zealots and the cricketers had to bell the cat. The ball was in their court. For that, you may ask why? The legion of fans that had been fighting for a cause up until now had a job up their hands to throng the stadiums. While as for the cricketers, it was down to them to bring their A-game and not cut the tournament a sorry figure.

And I am not even getting to the armchair critics, who anyways would find reasons to look down upon anything. Their favourite habit? Making mountains out of molehills.

Now that there is a luxury of hindsight for my benefit, all I now do is wait every evening for the match to start at 7:30 PM, the double-header day being an exception.

Why am I saying this? For the answer, let's get to the maths. Relax, it's not calculus. 

The inaugural WPL season has flatly succeeded in its plan with the 12,000-plus attending the latest Mumbai Indians-Gujarat Giants fixture on a Wednesday. While the numbers have not been great for every game, the stadiums did remain empty any day and that serves as a testament to the fact that people are ready to turn up. Yes, for a women's cricket match.


It takes two to tango

Have you seen a houseful board in a cinema hall for a movie low in content? Many would bring recent Salman Khan films and Shah Rukh Khan's Pathaan in the discussion.

Nonetheless, a women's cricket match also does not differ in this respect. Why would fans flock in large numbers if the first-rate quality is not delivered by the players, even if the tickets are free for female spectators in WPL 2023? As much as cliche it may sound, time is money.

Let alone the star players, WPL's quality has been given an enrichment injection as the emerging talents have put in spectacles day in and day out, putting the tournament in the right footing for what I believe will make it one of the most successful franchise-based tournaments.

If Saika Ishaque's delectable left-arm spin has not already hooked you into the league already, then I do not know what would? When we craved for a Brendon McCulllum-esque innings in the WPL opener, Saika rained on our parade as her 4-11 made Gujarat Giants leave the ground for the lowest total of the season (64) in response to Mumbai Indians' 207.

She is currently the purple cap holder, boasting of 12 wickets in her tally.

While the Royal Challengers Bangalore have paid enough price for Smriti Mandhana's poor form so much so that the women in red are on the verge of an early exit, they must find solace in the fact that they have a top-class all-rounder in Shreyanka Patil.

Gun on the field, explosive with the bat, satisfactory as an off-spinner, Shreyanka is a complete package. She has scored 53 runs and claimed three scalps for RCB so far. However, the numbers do not lie, the Karnataka-born has been true to WPL's motto, showing enough potential to be termed as the next big thing.

If we go by the apple pie order, another box that the WPL has ticked has to be exemplary showing by the overseas players with Issy Wong being a perfect consummate of it, adding weight to my statement.

The Mumbai Indians pacer has bowled at any economy of 5.18 in the tournament, lesser than any other bowler in the season. She has taken five wickets in as many matches.

The only associate player in the league, Tara Norris, sits among the highest wicket-takers in the running season. Playing for Delhi Capitals, she has victimised seven batters with her best figures reading 5/29. As a matter of fact, it is another facet where WPL takes the cake.

And as the WPL advertisement says, "Yeh toh bas shuruat hain" (It's just the beginning), it may hit the apt note in the sense that the league continues to produce many more Saika Ishaques, Shreyanka Patils, Issy Wongs and Tara Norris.

Alright! It's 7:30, I better turn on the television.