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Analysis

Metres matter, but short boundaries not the only reason for the run-fest in the WPL

But the trend might be changing, as bowlers come into their own on the tiring pitches at Brabourne and DY Patil stadiums

We are just past the halfway mark in the inaugural WPL and there have already been four 200-plus totals, plenty of fours and sixes, two batters coming close to scoring centuries and more feats, mainly with the bat.
There have been three five-wicket hauls, but bowlers have not had a great time. In batting-friendly conditions, they have been carted around the two grounds being used in the tournament, the short boundaries - as close by as 42-44 metres from the batting end in some cases - compounding problems for them.
Such scores - Delhi Capitals' 223 for 2 against Royal Challengers Bangalore has been the highest so far, with both grounds witnessing two 200-plus scores apiece - are rare in women's T20 cricket.
Bowlers, both uncapped and international, have been hit around, and fours and sixes have accounted for 65% of the total runs scored so far. The four 200-plus totals, all in the first innings, have come in just 22 innings (just under one in five innings). For context, the WBBL in Australia has had only four 200-plus scores in eight seasons and 922 innings (once every 230 innings, approximately). A total of 200 in a T20 would roughly equate to a score of 160 in the Hundred, and its two seasons have had just five 160-plus totals in 117 innings (one in 23 innings, approximately).
Massive totals aside, the scoring rate in the WPL after ten games was 8.69, well ahead of 7.18 in the last season of the WBBL and 7.73 in the 2022 Hundred. One of the main reasons, again, for that is how often the batters have been hitting fours and sixes in the WPL compared to the WBBL and the Hundred.
Short boundaries, though, are just one reason. There's more.

Flat pitches and quick outfields

Even though both Brabourne Stadium and DY Patil Stadium have been rotating the pitches, conditions have predominantly been friendly for batters. Apart from the odd sign of swing and turn, batters have not had to worry about much. And even if they miscue a shot, they get the advantages of quick outfields and, yes, the remarkably short boundaries.
Shabnim Ismail, UP Warriorz's South African pace spearhead, pointed out that the high scores were also a result of how the women's game has progressed, and some batters have been hitting big sixes.
"The boundaries are short but women's cricket in general is moving forward, so you can see some batters have been hitting huge sixes, like 70-plus metres," Ismail told ESPNcricinfo. "So it's not only about the small boundaries, also how you can capitalise in the middle, which is great to see in women's cricket in general."
The boundary ropes have been pulled in to measure as short as 42 or 44 metres on one part of the ground, and the BCCI has reportedly set a cap of 60 metres for the longest boundary, compared to 65 at the Women's T20 World Cup last month.
The going's good at the moment, but as the pitches suffer more wear and tear, scores may start to come down and we may see more assistance for the slower bowlers.
"I've probably got a few grey hairs being a captain [to stop the run flow], but as a batter definitely your eyes tend to light up a little bit," Warriorz captain Alyssa Healy told ESPNcricinfo about the scores. "That's the nature of the competition. As it continues to go on and the wickets get tired a little bit, the scores might come down just a fraction. It's been exciting, the 200-run scores have looked great, but there also have been tight contests. So, I have enjoyed that side of the game than the big scores."
On that last point, there has been one chase achieved with one ball to spare, one with two balls to spare, and one victory by 11 runs in a match in which 391 runs were scored.
While the intention behind preparing batting-friendly conditions is perhaps to pull in more crowds at the grounds and attract more eyeballs on TV, for a tournament that has just started, Lisa Sthalekar, who played 187 internationals for Australia, does commentary around the world, and is currently the Warriorz mentor, said it was not the best way to promote the game.
"I understand the reason why BCCI did that… same thing happened in the WBBL - bring everything in, we want the scores high," she said. "For cricket tragics, they look at the scorecard and think, '120 vs 130, why am I watching this? But 160 vs 170, I am definitely watching that'.
"The WPL has to keep educating people along the way. If you have to manipulate things to get the outcome you want, I think players understand that. But at some point, you have to even the ledger out. One thing I have seen over time is if you have good pace, good bounce, good carry in a pitch, you can put the boundaries out. The players are strong enough to hit sixes. So you don't need to manipulate it much. But if it's a low, slow turning pitch, then it's hard."

Overseas batters bring in the powerplay

The first boundary in the WPL was a six, when Hayley Matthews sent Mansi Joshi's length ball over deep square-leg. That was perhaps an early sign that the overseas players were going to dominate the Indian domestic and not-too-experienced international players.
While Smriti Mandhana, Richa Ghosh and S Meghana haven't sparkled so far, Shafali Verma is the only Indian among the top-eight run-scorers in the competition so far. She is at the top of the six-hitters' chart, which is again dominated by the overseas players. Shafali, Harmanpreet Kaur, Kiran Navgire and Harleen Deol are the only Indians to have struck half-centuries (six, overall), compared to the 13 from overseas players.
"Everyone recruited pretty well at the auction and so, you've got some outstanding batting line-ups in all the teams," Delhi Capitals head coach Jonathan Batty, who has coached Oval Invincibles to titles in the women's Hundred and Melbourne Stars in the WBBL, said. "You've got more overseas players in these teams than you would do in others [leagues]. You've got four [in the XI], you'd normally have only three in the others. So the teams are actually probably stronger and batting-heavy in a lot of them."

Inexperienced bowlers struggle to keep pace

The other aspect is the less-experienced bowlers bowling to these top-flight batters.
Case in point, left-arm spinner Preeti Bose, who played five internationals for India in 2016, bowling to the explosive England batter Sophia Dunkley in the powerplay. Gujarat Giants' Dunkley tore into Bose for a 23-run over on her way to an 18-ball half-century against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Those are the most runs leaked by an Indian bowler in an over in the WPL so far.
Among the 11 overs that have gone for 20 or more in the WPL, eight have been by bowlers who have not played, or played very little, international cricket. Australia's Annabel Sutherland, who played most of her 33 internationals in 2022-23, has twice conceded 22 or more in an over, both times at the death.
Save for Warriorz, whose most expensive over has come from Australia's Tahlia McGrath (19 runs, twice), most of the other teams has had inexperienced bowlers bleeding runs: Bose for RCB, Sutherland for Giants, and USA's left-arm seamer Tara Norris for Capitals. And none of the domestic Indian players, with the notable exception of Mumbai Indians' Saika Ishaque, have managed to pick up wickets regularly. Only Shikha Pandey and Deepti Sharma have taken five or more wickets among Indian bowlers, apart from Ishaque's chart-topping 12.
There's another interesting factor here. The inexperience of some of the captains, which has led to bowlers not always been used in the best possible way. Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet aside, none of the captains have much experience leading international sides. Point to note: Lanning's Capitals and Harmanpreet's Mumbai are top of the table currently.
Not only are three of the five captains inexperienced at the job, they hardly had any time to get to know their squads and plan strategies. Now that each team has played at least four games, the captains can strategise better to probably not bowl two uncapped bowlers in tandem or not expose them too much in the powerplay and the death overs.
The WPL provides a platform for such bowlers to excel and enhance their skills by being exposed to such scenarios. As the competition has gone on, bowlers have also adapted and pitches have started to tire out, which could be why the WPL hasn't had a 200-plus score after the first six games. Maybe that will be the trend from here on, and bowlers will have more of a say.
Stats inputs by Shiva Jayaraman

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo