All three teams in the 2022 edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge have been seen in action with two of them – Supernovas and Velocity – registering crucial wins. With just one more ‘league stage’ match left, the fate of all three sides (Trailblazers being the other side) hangs in the balance as they wait to find out who will make the final on Saturday.
However, if your first game was a one-sided affair where your team has backed its strength and balance on paper emphatically, then you have every reason to wear the widest smile on your face, and that’s how Devika Palshikar, Velocity’s head coach, greets journalists who have hopped by the boundary line at the MCA Stadium to speak to her from a distance.
“This match went almost entirely according to the plans we had laid out in the team meetings before the game. We just needed to make one or two bowling changes or instructions in the middle,” Palshikar said after Velocity romped to a seven-wicket win over Supernovas.
The girls in purple won the toss and chose to bowl, a decision that seemed a little puzzling given the grass on the new pitch used for this fixture and the muscle in their batting department. One would not be faulted to think that captain Deepti Sharma wanted to rely on her batters if it came to it than the other way around. However, Palshikar emphasizes that they had thought it all through to the last detail.
“We read the pitch right that’s why after winning the toss, we chose to bowl. Because it was an afternoon game, we noticed dryness in the pitch that could help our spinners, and hence we chose to do that,” she said.
This level of preparation can be attributed to the formation of a solid core leadership group helping Sharma, who is relatively new to the demands of captaincy.
“I have assigned Kate (Cross) as my bowling captain and Laura (Wolvaardt) as my batting captain. So, the two of them plus Deeptii, Sneh Rana (vice-captain), and I sit together and plan things for the game and player,” Palshikar said.
Despite the eventual win, for a little while, it looked like Supernovas Harmanpreet Kaur would undo the hard work put in by the Velocity bowlers when she began to accelerate with Taniya Bhatia for company. The duo put up an 82-run stand for the fourth wicket with Kaur finishing with a 51-ball 71.
“Knowing Harman’s style of batting, we knew she tends to depend on that sweep shot a lot. The issue with her was that even with calculated deliveries to stifle her, she was still converting them into runs. That is her style. We tried to bowl fuller and on the offside, but she was converting. Even then, we still feel we gave away 20 runs too many. We could have made things tighter and restricted them to a smaller total,” Palshikar said.
“I have assigned Kate as my bowling captain and Laura as my batting captain. So, the two of them plus Deeptii, Sneh Rana, and I sit together and plan things for the game and player,” Palshikar said. – Sportzpics/IPL
Velocity has just one, at the maximum two chances to strive for perfection since the tournament has just four games in total to fit into the men’s IPL playoffs. To get to that final, the side needs to see off Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers, the winner of the 2020 edition. Palshikar feels the side was throwing their wickets away but expects them to make a strong comeback when these two sides clash on Thursday.
Given the firepower, Mandhana, Hayley Matthews, Jemimah Rodrigues, S. Meghana (who didn’t feature in the opening game), Richa Ghosh, and Sophia Dunkley are capable of, Velocity hopes to change its plans accordingly. The two matches so far have already seen the highest powerplay score of the tournament bettered twice, the highest successful chase, and some explosive batting performances.
While Shafali Verma (51) and Laura Wolvaardt (51*) have shown that the side is more than up for the task, Velocity has another arrow in its quiver that has not been unleashed yet – Kiran Navgire. While crowds waited for her to potentially open for Velocity as she had done with great success for Nagaland in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, Navgire’s services were ultimately not required.
“As per our planning, her role comes after 10-12 overs. She was padded up right from the 10th over. We have assigned a finisher’s role for her at the moment,” Palshikar explained.
Navgire (though she represents Nagaland) is one among the sizeable pool of players from Maharashtra who feature in this tournament. Two among them – Maya Sonawane and Aarti Kedar, both in Velocity, were also part of the Maharashtra team which made the final of the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy earlier in May.
“Navgire is from Solapur, Maya is from Sinnar, and Aarti is from Nagar – so all of them have come up from villages and now have the opportunity to share dressing rooms with international players. They are enjoying themselves, and the bonding is very good. I didn’t expect that. Despite the communication barriers, they are getting along well,” Palshikar said.
“Maharashtra’s future is looking very good,” she added in Marathi.
“I have not worked in Maharashtra even though I am from here but I’ve had the chance to work with these girls on a one-on-one basis, and so I know them. Unfortunately, for the last four years, I have not been in India much as I have been working with other countries (she has worked with the Bangladesh cricket team, besides a number of Indian domestic setups and the Indian national team in 2014) and teams but it makes me very happy to see them play this way. Happy to see five to six Maharashtra girls in these teams,” she said.