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Haynes: WPL will make Indian cricket richer, like WBBL has done for Australia

Gujarat Giants head coach opens up about WPL auction strategies, transitioning into coaching, working with Mithali Raj, and more

Ashish Pant
February 3, 2023 - Rachael Haynes joins Adani Sportsline-owned Gujarat Giants as head coach.
February 13, 2023 - The inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) auction is held in Mumbai.
Ten days! That is all the time Haynes, the former Australia captain, had to put together an 18-member squad for Gujarat Giants ahead of the inaugural WPL. At a time when IPL teams have elaborate mock auctions, scouting and round-the-year player trials, Haynes, alongside Giants mentor and advisor Mithali Raj and bowling coach Nooshin Al Khadeer, had the challenge to set up a WPL team from scratch in just over a week. All this, in her first assignment as the head coach of a professional team.
It might sound a lot of pressure, but what is pressure for a player who has won six world titles and a Commonwealth Games gold medal as part of the Australian team? That might be a reason why Raj, who played against Haynes a number of times, reached out to her for a coaching role with the Giants.
"Given the time that everything came together, how little time there was, we sort of just had to get rolling straight away," Haynes told ESPNcricinfo. "We had to have open and forthright conversations with each other to make sure that we were on the same page and could move forward and make decisions when they needed to be made.
"I leant on Mithali and Noosh [Nooshin] a lot for the local players. They know the game in India very well so we spoke a lot about the local talent and who they thought could really fill valuable roles for us in our side. That's really how we went about putting our squad together; thinking about the roles that we needed to be filled in our team and then who the players were that we could target to do that."
Giants bought a good blend of Indian and overseas players. There is an obvious Australian influence in the overseas contingent, with four of the six spots going to Ashleigh Gardner, Beth Mooney, Georgia Wareham and Annabel Sutherland. Deandra Dottin and Sophia Dunkley are the other two overseas players in the side. Among the Indian names, Giants have Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana, S Meghana and Sushma Verma among others.
"There are lots of different elements that hopefully can come together through the WPL and hopefully, Indian cricket can be richer for it."
Rachael Haynes
They went into the auction with one clear strategy: to not get overly attached to any player. Barring Gardner and Mooney - two of the three most expensive overseas buys in the auction - there was not a lot of incessant bidding from the Giants table.
"We didn't get too attached to one particular player, I think that can sometimes end in a little bit of heartbreak if you want one player and you are sort of holding off for them in the auction and then potentially you miss out on them," Haynes said while explaining their auction strategy. "We honestly went in with the philosophy of making sure we were clear on the roles we wanted filled in the side. Who we thought could open the batting, bat through the middle order, who those allrounders could be to fill different roles in the side as well.
"It was obvious that we wanted Ash Gardner given how aggressive we were in bidding for her and getting her over the line."
First-hand knowledge is another important aspect that Haynes brings to the table. As someone who retired less than six months ago, the 36-year-old shared the Australian dressing room with Sutherland, Mooney, Wareham and Gardner. She has also watched a lot of the players who had registered at the auction from close quarters.
Giants bought Wareham for INR 75 lakh (US$ 91,000 approx) and at the time of the auction, she had not played a T20I in over a year having undergone a knee construction surgery after rupturing her ACL in the WBBL in October 2021.
"I had the benefit of having seen her first hand in Australia and just seeing how well she completed her rehab and how well she has presented since," Haynes said on Wareham's selection. "The tough thing being out of that international spotlight in terms of an international player, you are relying on a little bit more first-hand local knowledge in that respect. To draw people back to the player she was when she was playing before that injury, she was very much a core part of that Australian line-up, she was a fantastic player in big moments too if I think of the occasions she stood up under pressure and took key wickets for Australia."
Haynes' transition from a player to coach is a natural one. She finished her Level 3 coaching accreditation - the highest in Australia - last year, alongside former team-mates Elyse Villani and Meg Lanning. By the time Haynes hung up her boots in September 2022, drawing the curtains on a 13-year-long international career, she was ready to enter the next phase of her professional life.
She credits Matthew Mott, the former Australia women's head coach and current white-ball coach of the England men's side, for being the driving force behind her taking up coaching.
"Matthew Mott certainly was really instrumental in making sure that particularly us senior players completed our coaching accreditation while we were still in the game," Haynes said. "He was instrumental in really encouraging us to do that but also providing us opportunities in the Australian programme to create sessions, to run and lead different scenarios around the teams.
"It [coaching role] is going to be a challenge, certainly a change of gear from playing and being a player in an environment to being a coach and trying to create a really positive space for our players to perform and also learn. I am looking forward to that challenge and, yeah, we can bring it together at the right time in the WPL."
The WPL is expected to be the next big thing for women's cricket. The tournament has already been in the spotlight for being the most lucrative in the women's game. In January, Viacom18 won the media rights for the WPL for a whopping INR 951 crore (US$ 116.7 million approx.) for a period of five years and a few days later the BCCI sold the five franchises for INR 4669.99 crore (US$ 572.78 million approx).
Then at the auction, a number of players had massive paydays. Gardner was the most expensive overseas buy alongside Nat Sciver-Brunt (Mumbai Indians) fetching INR 3.2 crore (US$ 390,000 approx.). Mooney was bought by Giants for INR 2 crore (US$ 244,000 approx.).
While the influx of money is a huge part of it, Haynes also expects the tournament to bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket for Indian players, like it has for the Australian players at the WBBL and the England players through the Hundred.
"First and foremost, it [WPL] is going to draw so many different people to the game, hopefully, who will get to experience and come to know some of the female players which we've all known for some time," Haynes said. "It will also create really good opportunities for the domestic players in India. We've seen how positive that is in terms of creating depth in international sides around the world. If I think of the Australian system in the WBBL and what's that done for Australian cricket, the same happens in the Hundred as well, albeit in a different format.
"There are lots of different elements that hopefully can come together through the WPL and hopefully, Indian cricket can be richer for it."
So, did she at any stage think of coming out of retirement to try her hand at playing in the WPL?
"I got to that point where I knew I was ready to step away and experience a new challenge. I just knew that I probably got the most out of myself and I was happy with where I'd got to and had the sense of fulfilment," Haynes said. "I certainly wasn't sitting there in envy wishing that I was playing or anything like that. I am very happily retired."

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo