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Feature

Capitals look for more gains with a 'fully committed' Lanning

Head coach Jonathan Batty hopes to improve an already strong squad as they head into the WPL auction

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
08-Dec-2023
Meg Lanning was the highest run-getter in the inaugural WPL in 2023  •  BCCI

Meg Lanning was the highest run-getter in the inaugural WPL in 2023  •  BCCI

Meg Lanning is "very excited" and "fully committed to coming back" for the second Women's Premier League (WPL) season in February, said Delhi Capitals head coach Jonathan Batty, who has been in close touch with the former Australia captain.
Lanning topped the run charts in the first WPL held earlier this year, scoring 345 runs in nine innings, at a strike rate of 139.11. She had taken a break from cricket in 2022, came back to win a T20 World Cup, missed the women's Ashes due to medical reasons and, just last month, retired from international cricket altogether.
Lanning has continued to play in the T20 franchise circuit and was most recently part of Melbourne Stars in the Women's Big Bash League. "Meg is great, she really enjoyed last year's tournament," Batty told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the WPL auction in Mumbai on Saturday. "She is fully committed to coming back and is very excited."
While Lanning's presence will give them a fillip, Batty is particularly pleased with having been able to build a robust, core-group of players that bring in different dimensions of leadership to the system. This, he believes, was among their biggest takeaways from the inaugural WPL.
"We always talk of what players bring to the team apart from core skill sets. Shikha Pandey was outstanding leading the seam-bowling group," Batty said. "She was also very good at identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the local opposition players. We use our core group to scout the opposition as well and they bought into that really well.
"Jemimah [Rodrigues] and Shafali [Verma] also showed great leadership qualities. Jemimah was vice-captain, and Shafali had led India Under-19s. We got a lot of good leadership qualities from the local players, as well as Lanning and Jess Jonassen, who has captained the Brisbane Heat [in the WBBL]."
The Capitals have INR 2.25 crore available going into the auction - only Mumbai Indians have a smaller purse - and have a maximum of three slots to fill. They've released three players - Jasia Akhtar and Aparna Mondal along with USA fast bowler Tara Norris, who picked up the WPL's first five-for.
Batty touched on having to make some tough decisions in order to achieve overall squad balance. He also explained why Norris had to be released. As things stand, teams can field a fifth overseas player if they happen to be from an Associate nation.
"Tara was great for us last season, and it's sad to see her go, but the one thing we did see through is the quality we have in our domestic Indian seam bowling. Titas Sadhu [who didn't play a single game] and Arundhati Reddy both kicked on during the tournament and have done since. We're really strong from that angle.
"Both were very keen to learn, worked really hard, picked on senior players' knowledge. Titas learnt a lot from Marizanne Kapp and Shikha, it's great to see her play for India in the meantime. Pleased for Aru as well, they've made significant progress to where they were 12 months ago, so we're really proud to have been a part of that, it's also what we're here to do."
During the off-season, the Capitals put together two elaborate camps, where they had a look at potential new signings. Former India batter Hemlata Kala, who had previously served as India women's chief selector, and Biju George, the team's fielding coach, were key members in this operation given that they are part of the team that goes out to scout for players during the domestic season.
"We've put together a scouting team of four people underneath our strategy manager and chief scout," Batty said. "They go around the local domestic tournament, make sure they spread themselves to ensure every match was covered. We've got data of the local players, who honestly, I've got very little knowledge of. So there's a lot of trust and emphasis placed on identifying local talent.
"We had one camp in Delhi and another in Bangalore. We invited those who we felt were the best of the domestic talent we hadn't seen last year. We also had a look at our own domestic players who were available and weren't involved with India or overseas at the time.
"It was a good way to cross-check, sort of see how the other local players are in comparison to those we've already got so that we have a benchmark alongside that, and it's great. The camp in Bangalore was fantastic, some really good talent, a multitude of skillsets on show, was very clear there's a huge amount of talent in the local Indian market."
Capitals' auction strategy ahead of the inaugural season revolved around building "as strong a squad as possible rather than focusing on individuals". Ahead of a mini-auction, it's now about "tinkering around the edges."
"We were really pleased last year, coming out of the auction," Batty said. "We felt we had the best 18-player squad. And obviously, the tournament went pretty well for us last year, we just fell short in the final hurdle. We know we've got a good core group; it's about trying to tinker around the edges. Can we improve the starting XI? Can we improve the playing squad - all our conversations have been around that."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo