Women’s T20 Challenge 2022 Team of the Tournament: Harmanpreet Kaur to lead star-studded unit
When the future generations will turn the pages of history associated with women’s cricket in India, they might view the Women’s T20 Challenge 2022 as a watershed moment.
With a host of magnificent performances that drew fans, the edition saw spectators willing to spend their hard-earned money to watch the event unfold – something that the tournament witnessed for the first time since its inception.
With the possibility of the Women’s IPL (WIPL) starting next year, here’s our team of the tournament for the event gone by:
One of the names that shouldn’t spring a surprise is that of Deandra Dottin. ‘The World Boss’ turned out to be the third-highest run-getter in the tournament. In three games, she scored 100 runs at an impressive strike rate of 142.85. What stood out about her batting was her ability to launch bowlers down the ground or precisely over the mid-wicket and cow corner region. She possesses the brute force to clear any boundary and once the ball is in her arc, she just goes aerial without paying heed to whether there are boundary riders in play or not.
But it was not just her batting, she was highly astute as a bowler and hurried batters with her pace. With the ball in hand, she was too hot for Velocity’s liking in the final. Asked to bowl the third over in the final, she came around the wicket to Shafali Verma and bowled a short of good length delivery angling across her. The ball was so good that all Verma could do was edge it behind to Taniya Bhatia.
Verma’s exit brought Kiran Navgire, the most anticipated striker of the tournament into the middle (if not the most feared), and Dottin had a plan charted for her too. Having seen how destructive Navgire can be when the ball is in her arc, Dottin bowled a short delivery that rammed into Navgire’s helmet and shook the 26-year-old dasher. She bowled a total of 11 dot deliveries to Navgire and was constantly breathing down her neck. It was the effect of the unrelenting pressure of those 11 balls that forced Navgire to take a risk against Sophie Ecclestone, only to get castled.
Trailblazers’ Sabbineni Meghana got only one opportunity to display her heroics with the bat in the event (against Velocity) and she grabbed it with both hands. She scored a match-winning 73 off just 47 balls, including seven fours and four sixes. It was her knock that gave Smriti Mandhana’s side hope of making it to the finals (ultimately ruined by the Navgire show later). What stood out about her batting was the willingness to hit straight down the ground rather than trying to muscle shots into the on side.
During her knock, she hit her first three boundaries straight down the ground off Kate Cross and never looked like taking any massive risks, which isn’t the case with most batters in T20Is. She dealt with Velocity’s spinners in the same way and forced them to err in length by using her feet to perfection. Meghana aggregated the most runs in the form of fours and sixes by any batter in an innings and maintained a strike rate of 155.31 in the process.
Jemimah Rodrigues was certainly one of the players who made her mark in the Women’s T20 Challenge 2022 despite her team not qualifying for the final. Apart from Meghana, she was one of the players who provided Trailblazers with a realistic chance of going through to the final.
Rodrigues’ 66-run knock off 44 balls, at an imposing strike rate of 150, showed why she’s among India’s best batters in the format. She was never seen trying to muscle the ball as she went about her knock in a sublime way and forced the bowlers to bowl to her forte. It needs to be mentioned that she ran out of partners in the first game versus Supernovas or else she could have made the difference there as well.
Laura Wolvaardt amassed 133 runs in three games and ended as the batter wielding the highest average (133). She was the only batter in the event to score two fifties. But the aspect of her batting that had people drooling was the strike rate at which she got all those runs.
She scored her runs at a terrific strike rate of 146.15, second only to Verma’s 169.64 among the top-five batters in the tournament. Her presence in Velocity’s batting order provided the unit with exemplary stability and great finesse. It was her unbeaten 65-run knock at a commanding strike rate of 162.50 that kept Velocity in the hunt and almost took them over the line in the final against Supernovas.
The best leader is the one who leads her troops by example. The above line sits well with Harmanpreet Kaur, who took Supernovas to a record-third Women’s T20 Challenge title. Kaur led from the front throughout and ended up becoming the highest run-getter, with 151 runs to her credit.
Her 29-ball 43 guided Supernovas to 165 in the final which eventually turned out to be just enough. In addition to her batting, the other thing that caught the eye was her strategy as the skipper of the side. When the duo of Mandhana and Hayley Matthews was going fluently in the powerplay, she was seen planning her fields with Pooja Vastrakar.
Even in the final, she was quick to toss the ball to Dottin and we all saw what happened next. It was her impeccable field placements and the strategies she adopted that brought her success as a leader.
The four-match extravaganza saw some of the game’s most phenomenal athletes display exhilarating performances but none produced more ripples than Kiran Prabhu Navgire. Touted as a feared ball striker from the very beginning of the tournament, Navgire lit up the event by adding the razzmatazz.
Her swashbuckling 69-run knock off 39 balls versus Trailblazers was highly riveting and helped Velocity secure a final berth apart from setting quite a few records. The innings saw her score the fastest fifty in the history of the tournament, off just 25 balls. Her innings went on to become the best in terms of strike rate (202.94) and also featured five huge sixes, including one off the very first ball she faced.
Yastika Bhatia (WK)
You can argue that Yastika Bhatia had a fairly ordinary tournament as a batter but she did a good job behind the stumps. In addition to her wicket-keeping duties, she was seen talking to her skipper Deepti Sharma and didn’t shy away from chipping in with inputs when and where those were needed.
With six wickets, Pooja Vastrakar turned out to be the most successful bowler not only from Supernovas’ perspective but also in the tournament. It was Vastrakar’s unyielding bowling spell (4/12) in the game against Trailblazers that saw them lose the contest by 49 runs and put the mockers on them.
She notched an amazing strike rate of ten balls per wicket – second only to Hayley Matthews’ nine. Unlike other bowlers who looked dumbfounded while being taken away for runs, Vastrakar was calm and charting out plans with her skipper, which eventually paid a lot of dividends.
When Alana King’s name appeared in the list of overseas players set to feature in the Women’s T20 Challenge of 2022, there was a sense of excitement in the air. It wasn’t that the world hadn’t seen the leggie before but it was more so because the fleeting event provided the spectators with yet another opportunity to witness the awe that King can generate.
The lone representative of the Australian 2022 World Cup-winning squad, King bowled with phenomenal control right through the tournament. As a spinner you, are expected to be brave in T20s and so was King. Although Velocity were already tottering at 61 for the loss of four wickets at the end of ten overs in the final, they still had the likes of Sharma and Sneh Rana, who could have made Wolvaardt’s job much easier. But King’s match-winning spell of 3/32 saw Wolvaardt run out of partners and sealed the deal in Supernovas’ favour.
The Women’s T20 Challenge 2022 saw wickets that were mostly belters and hardly had anything in them for seamers. Hence, it was difficult for seam bowlers to create an impact, but despite the challenge, there were a few who stood out and one of them was Velocity’s Kate Cross.
Cross picked up five wickets in the tournament but it’s not about just how many she got. It’s rather about who she dismissed. Four out of the five scalps that she bagged were all frontline batters – Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur, Harleen Deol, and Priya Punia. She provided Velocity with all these wickets at crucial junctures and played a key role in her team’s campaign.
Another player who didn’t have the best of outings but did decently well in the tournament was 30-year-old Poonam Yadav. She bagged three wickets in two games but her wickets column doesn’t do justice to the moments of brilliance she produced.
After being taken for 13 runs in her first over against Velocity, Yadav made a strong comeback and dismissed a dangerous-looking Wolvaardt to break the 55-run partnership between her and Navgire, which was taking the game away from Trailblazers. She could have had three that night had wicket-keeper Richa Ghosh collected a faint edge from Rana.
Honourable mentions: Shafali Verma, Sophie Ecclestone, Simran Dil Bahadur