Mooney wants her Gujarat Giants side to take 'brave options' on the field

She is excited with new partnership alongside coach Rachael Haynes, and says she feels no pressure as one of five WPL captains

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
Gujarat Giants captain Beth Mooney addresses the media ahead of the WPL, Mumbai, March 3, 2023

Mooney will be captain at the inaugural WPL game on Saturday  •  AFP/Getty Images

Having always wanted a women's tournament on the lines of the IPL, Australia batter Beth Mooney was delighted at being picked up by Gujarat Giants at the WPL auction. But a call from former India captain Mithali Raj, Giants' mentor, asking her to be the captain was not something Mooney expected.
"When I got bid on in the auction, I was just happy to be a part of it and captaincy wasn't something that was on my radar," Mooney said on the eve of the WPL opener against Mumbai Indians at DY Patil Stadium. "Mithali gave me a phone call and said 'we'd like you to do it [captaincy] and we're happy if you want to. So just let us know'. After a couple of conversations with Rachael [Haynes, head coach] after that, we both thought that the time was right for me to challenge myself within cricket."
Mooney, who landed in India and joined the squad only on Wednesday, will be captaining at the top level for the first time. She has stood in as a skipper for Queensland Fire in the Women's NCL and for Brisbane Heat in the WBBL, but never captained a T20 side at a higher stage. Giants also have a first-time coach in Haynes, who only retired from all formats after the previous WBBL season. Mooney, who is fresh of a player-of-the-match performance in Australia's sixth Women's T20 World Cup title on Sunday, said she trusted the judgement of her former Australian team-mate and was looking forward to the experience.
"I know Rachael Haynes quite well [and it is good] to be able to work pretty close with her," she said. "She is in her first ever job as a head coach. I haven't done a lot of captaincy recently but I did a fair bit when I was younger. I have got a little bit of experience. I trust Rach and her judgement and so I was more than happy to help her out."
"I'd rather see someone go out and try something they have been working on in training and perhaps get out, than go back into shell"
One of the added challenges of captaining a franchise team in the WPL for Mooney will be to know and get the best of the Indian players at Giants' disposal. She had a run through about the squad with Haynes and had inputs from Raj. More importantly, Mooney was firm on instilling the brave and never-say-die attitude in the players that Australia, who now have won a hat-trick of T20 World Cups for the second time, are known for.
Since their semi-final exit in the Women's ODI World Cup of 2017, Australia have won the T20 World Cups in 2018, 2020 - where Mooney was the player of the tournament - and 2023, along with the Women's ODI World Cup in 2022 and the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Teams at the WPL will play each other twice in the league stage and Mooney said that it's maintaining momentum was important, and the fate of a team is not necessarily decided in the opening fixtures.
"It's just about understanding that these tournaments are not won or lost in the first couple of games," she said. "We see teams around the world and domestically back in Australia that you can lose momentum quickly if you let a couple of losses derail the group. It's all about grabbing that momentum as well. I think only way you can do that is being calm under pressure and taking the braver option always. I'll try and instil that in the group as much as I can.
"I'd rather see someone go out and try something they have been working on in training and perhaps get out, than go back into shell especially with the bat and same with the ball. They can try a change-up or a slower ball when the game is on the line. They might miss it slightly, but they tried their skill and nearly executed it. That goes a long way into then get it right if they don't get right at first."
Having joined the group only recently, Mooney hoped to rely on the judgement of the coaching staff for the first couple of games before really adding her flavour.
Having been picked up at an auction price of INR 2 crore, she also brushed aside the added pressure of the price tag and said, "I am not sure there is much more pressure. I shouldn't be playing if I put pressure on myself to perform. There's nothing no one else can put on me more than I put on myself."

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo