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WPL stars to look out for - Mandhana, Shafali, Harmanpreet, Mooney and more

The inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League is not short of big names. Here are a couple from each team

Smriti Mandhana is one of the most sought-after Indians in T20 leagues across the globe  •  ICC via Getty Images

Smriti Mandhana is one of the most sought-after Indians in T20 leagues across the globe  •  ICC via Getty Images

The Women's Premier League kicks off in Mumbai in a few days' time with plenty of star players featuring in the inaugural edition. ESPNcricinfo takes a look at two big names from each of the five teams.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

A fearless opener and the most expensive player at the inaugural auction, Mandhana is one of the most sought-after Indians in T20 leagues across the globe in women's cricket. She is coming off a good T20 World Cup, scoring 151 runs in four innings and finishing as India's highest run-getter in the competition. With a strike rate of 123.87 in T20Is, Mandhana, the RCB captain, will be expected to provide a flying start at the top. That apart, she has also led Trailblazers to a title in the Women's T20 Challenge - the predecessor to the WPL - in 2020.
Having gone down the pecking order for Australia in the recent times, Perry proved yet again in the series against India that she is not done yet, with big knocks in tough conditions last December. In Perry, RCB have a multiple-time T20 World Cup winner and a big-match player. A classy batter, a gun fielder and a pacer who can bowl in any phase of the game to keep the opponent at bay, her credentials as an allrounder speak for themselves. In a star-studded overseas line-up, the Australian will easily be their first-choice allrounder.

Delhi Capitals

Since coming back into the Indian side post her ODI World Cup snub last year, Rodrigues seems to be playing with a lot more clarity and confidence combined with better game awareness. She finished as the highest run-getter at the Asia Cup with 217 runs, and was also India's second-most run-scorer during the Sri Lanka tour and the Commonwealth Games. In the 30 T20Is that she took part in since June 2022, Rodrigues has upped her average to 36.05, having accumulated 649 runs. Her batting will be key in the Capitals top order which also has star players such as Shafali Verma and Meg Lanning.
That she was bought for INR 20 lakh more than the Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur speaks of Shafali's demand in the shortest format. Though Shafali didn't light up the stage as she would have hoped for at the recently concluded T20 World Cup - averaging 20.40 at a strike rate of 108.51 - she will be keen to find her feet in familiar conditions in the WPL. Since her T20I debut for India, 2022 by far has been her best year, where she featured in more matches and scored more runs, and hit more fours and sixes. It was in the Women's T20 Challenge that Shafali grabbed everyone's attention with her power-hitting and there will be no better competition than the WPL to get her mojo back.

Mumbai Indians

The English allrounder will undoubtedly be the first player to take an overseas player's slot in the XI. Even though Sciver-Brunt had a quiet 2022 in T20Is, she has had a crackling start to this year, hitting 216 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 141.17 - which was below 110 last year - and finishing as the second highest run-getter at the T20 World Cup in South Africa. This was after she made a successful return to be England's highest scorer on their combined ODI-T20I tour of West Indies, and their Player of the Series in the ODI format in December. Her reputation as a big hitter and a reliable pacer will be vital for Mumbai.
Ten years ago, it was in Mumbai that Harmanpreet hogged the limelight with a maiden World Cup hundred against England before becoming a household name in the country. Leading the franchise, she will be expected to bring more glory to Mumbai Indians - just like how the men's team has done in the past in the IPL. Harmanpreet has already had a great start to this year with two fifties in eight T20I innings at an average of 37.83. She also led the Indian team to the World Cup semi-finals, and her performance with the likes of Nat Sciver-Brunt and Amelia Kerr in the batting line-up could be a winning combination for Mumbai.

Gujarat Giants

Bought for a record sum of INR 3.2 crore - the joint-highest earning overseas player alongside Nat Sciver-Brunt in the WPL - Gardner will form the core of the Gujarat side. A fearless middle-order batter and an offspinner, Gardner's ability to shift gears with the bat and bowl economical and wicket-taking spells are the skills that make her valuable in the side. With Rachael Haynes as a part of the coaching group and Mooney as captain - two Australians with whom she has played a lot and who also understand Gardner's game and approach - one can be sure that she wouldn't be under-utilised in the competition.
With a total of 341 runs at a strike rate of 139.18 and an average of 48.71 from 11 T20Is, Mooney has been one of the most successful overseas batters in Indian conditions. Her ability to dominate both spin and pace makes her a must-have in any team. Not to forget, she is fresh off her unbeaten, title-winning 74 against South Africa in the T20 World Cup final, and the Australian will only be eager to extend her success with the national side to the Giants, where she will be the captain.

UP Warriorz

Arguably one of the best allrounders for India at the moment, Deepti was the second-most expensive Indian player at INR 2.6 crore, behind Mandhana. An uncanny offspinner and a middle-order batter who can go hard from the word go, she has evolved so much since her T20I debut for India in 2016. She has already crossed the 100-wicket mark in T20Is - with 29 of those coming in 2022, the most by a bowler last year - and has accounted for 15 wickets in nine innings this year already. Deepti, who boasts an overall economy of 6.17 in T20Is, will be the leader of the Warriorz spin attack, which also has star names such as Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Sophie Ecclestone.
One of the most destructive opening batters in women's cricket, Healy has established a reputation for single-handedly winning matches by taking down any bowling attack. Her glovework has also become increasingly accurate and remarkable over the past few years, making Healy an asset to any side that she plays for. With Warriorz naming her the captain, expect a lot of fireworks at the top from the Australian, who will likely open with the young Shweta Sehrawat.

Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo