Women’s T20 Challenge Preview: Will Supernovas regain bragging rights?

Harmanpreet Kaur (L), Sophie Ecclestone (M), Deandra Dottin (R) © Getty Images

When Harmanpreet Kaur-led Supernovas start their Women’s T20 Challenge 2022 campaign against defending champions Trailblazers on Monday (May 23), they will step onto the field with a fixed ambition – to regain the title they conceded to the Smriti Mandhana-led side in the previous edition. 

And if the two-time champions manage to succeed in their pursuit, then they will most likely drive home the bragging rights of being the most successful team ever in the competition as the pathway of Women’s IPL has already been laid.

What have they done in the past?

Supernovas have been the most successful team in the competition thus far. They won the inaugural edition in 2018 (a one-match affair) by beating Trailblazers and repeated the same feat in 2019 by defeating the same adversary in the final. The third edition didn’t turn out to be as fruitful for the side as they lost to the Mandhana-led side in the final by 16 runs in Sharjah.

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Best finish

The 2018 and the 2019 editions have been the most memorable ones for the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side as they were crowned the champions.

Squad

Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Taniya Bhatia (VC), Alana King, Ayushi Soni, Chandu V, Deandra Dottin, Harleen Deol, Meghna Singh, Monica Patel, Muskan Malik, Pooja Vastrakar, Priya Punia, Rashi Kanojia, Sophie Ecclestone, Suné Luus, Mansi Joshi

Likely playing XI

Priya Punia, Deandra Dottin, Suné Luus,  Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Harleen Deol, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Pooja Vastrakar, Sophie Ecclestone, Mansi Joshi, Meghna Singh, Alana King

Key players

Harmanpreet Kaur

The leader of the pack, Harmanpreet Kaur, is one of the biggest match-winners that the Supernovas have in their line-up. When you hear her name the first thing you visualise is her taking the attack to the bowlers and dictating terms with her marauding bat.

 All of that is true but Kaur ‘the batter’ often eclipses Kaur ‘the leader’. She has led Supernovas to two Women’s T20 Challenge titles and narrowly missed the third as they lost against Trailblazers at Sharjah in 2020. 

But Kaur’s success as a leader is not only limited to the domestic circuit. Kaur has won 39 of the 66 matches where she has captained India, lost 24 and three games have yielded no result. She wields a win percentage of 61.90 – a testimony to her leadership ability. Her tactical nous has helped Supernovas win the title on previous occasions and it won’t come as a surprise if she spreads her magic again.

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Sophie Ecclestone

When Sophie Eccelstone was operating for England in the 2022 50 overs World Cup in New Zealand, there wasn’t as much assistance available for her as she would have enjoyed while playing anywhere in the Indian subcontinent. 

But she still managed to top the bowling charts with jaw-dropping numbers to her credit. In nine games, she bagged 21 scalps, while conceding runs at an economy rate of just 3.83.

She is as battle-hardened as one could get by virtue of her participation in the Fairbreak Invitational T20 tournament that recently culminated in the UAE. 

The 23-year-old left-arm orthodox bowler was in her element in the event. With 17 wickets in just seven games, Ecclestone finished as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker. If you will take a look at the wickets column of the Fairbreak tournament, you will notice two things. Firstly, her impressive economy rate which stands at 5.23, and secondly that none of the other bowlers could even get their wickets tally into double digits.

It is her sheer brilliance as a bowler that has kept her at the top of the ladder in the ICC T20I bowlers rankings with 761 rating points to her credit.

X factor

The World Boss – Deandra Dottin

Arguably the most dreaded ball striker in the game, Deandra Dottin is the X factor for the Supernovas. 

When you claim to run the world, then it must reflect in the sheer weight of your performances. So does that reflect in the case of Dottin? You bet!

While batters around the world were still figuring out their approach to T20I cricket, Dottin announced herself with a bang. She hammered 112* versus South Africa in the opening affair of the T20 World Cup in 2010 at Warner Park in Basseterre – the first-ever T20I century. During the process, she mauled the Proteas’ bowling attack and her knock is still the fastest century of all time in T20 World Cups. She reached her ton off just 38 balls and her strike rate read an eye-popping 248.88.

If you are a captain, then the first thing you would ask from a batter in your line-up is to clout the opposition bowlers hard, so that they fail to execute any rearguard action and that’s what Dottin provides for the Supernovas.

The 30-year-old from Barbados has the highest strike rate (123.78) among batters with more than 2500 T20I runs. 

But in cricket, as in any other sport, the form of a player matters the most leading into any tournament, and Dottin has that taken care of too.

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Dottin amassed a total of 289 runs in seven matches during the Fairbreak at an imposing strike rate of 155.37 (the highest among batters with over 200 runs in the competition).

Well, she could have easily bagged the x-factor tag in the Supernovas squad based on her batting prowess but there’s more to her than just her batting.

Dottin epitomises the true definition of an all-rounder. She has 61 dismissals in her T20I career and is capable of delivering under pressure with the ball, something we saw a couple of months back in the tournament opener of the 2022 World Cup when she defended just six runs off six balls. As a fielder, the flying Barbadian’s acrobatic effort to pull off a one-handed stunner at point to dismiss Lauren Winfield-Hill in the same tournament sums up her abilities the best.

Prediction

The two-time champions are most likely to make it to the finals because of the kind of balance they have in their squad.