The first edition of the much-awaited Women’s Premier League (WPL) begins on Saturday when Gujarat Giants meet Mumbai Indians at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. The WPL will usher a new dawn for women’s cricket in India; there had been calls for a women’s franchise T20 tournament for long, and women cricketers now will not only get the much-needed exposure but also enjoy the perks of a cash-rich tournament. For many India women stars like Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and others, the WPL will be a platform to test themselves in pressure situations.
But the WPL is not just about the creme-de-la-creme of world cricket. For many, the league comes as an opportunity to perform and secure place in the national squad; Delhi Capitals’ Taniyaa Bhatia is one among them. Bhatia last represented India in August 2022; she lost her place in the side when Richa Ghosh impressed fans and former cricketers alike with her power-hitting skills in the middle-order.
But the 25-year-old Bhatia is not looking too far. In the break that she has had since losing her place in the side, she worked on herself – specifically her batting – and is eager to showcase a newer version of herself at the Women’s Premier League.
Excerpts from the conversation…
This will be the first time that you will be taking part in a franchise T20 tournament. How are the nerves?
I’m very excited. We will be playing alongside the legends of all countries. In fact, playing with them a big boost in itself. It’s like playing international cricket, really. The gap with the big players is bridged because here, we have players like Meg Lanning, Marizanne Kapp. Everyone around the world know them and support them. When we play against Australia and South Africa, they are very competitive. So, it will be a good opportunity for learn. I’m treating this as a big opportunity.
Where were you when the auction took place?
I was very anxious, so I didn’t watch the auction at all. I just kept my mobile to the side and I knew that whenever someone picks me, my phone will start buzzing. It was almost four to four-and-a-half-hours, then my mother called me and the messages started flooding. Then I realised that Delhi Capitals have picked me. I’m very grateful to them for showing faith in me.
Delhi Capitals’ head coach, Jonathan Batty was a wicketkeeper himself. Have you prepared any specific pointers on which you can work with him?
I haven’t made any pointers as such. I focus on basics in terms of wicketkeeping. But yes, I think it will be great because he will notice my wicketkeeping very closely. There are a lot of things on which he can give me input. And it will be great because I will gain a lot of knowledge. I think that’s the beauty of the Women’s Premier League.
You haven’t played for India since August 2022. How important can the WPL be to get that place back in the national team?
It’s very important. I haven’t played an international game for a long time. I played inter-zonal matches in Hyderabad and played three match-winning knocks for my team. North Zone were the champions. At the moment, my confidence is very high and that’s what I want in my batting. I will take this confidence forward in the Women’s Premier League. I’m not thinking too much right now. I am only thinking that I’ve a platform to display my batting skills. Focussing on Indian comeback will be an extra pressure right now.
Were you asked to work on your batting?
In terms of the Indian batting lineup, one has to be flexible. I was conveyed this. When I went back, I started going in the middle-order because I knew the Indian team wants someone there. I started focussing on the middle-order, and my strike rate in particular. Because nowadays, it doesn’t matter if it’s the T20Is or ODIs, strike rate is very important. So, I’m focussing on power-hitting more right now.
How do you look at the competition in the wicketkeeping position? Richa Ghosh has been impressive in Indian colours…
She’s a great talent. But honestly, even when I made the debut, I never focussed on others. My strengths are different, and every individual is different. When I went back, I started figuring out what my strength is, and how I can improve. I just worked on how I can score more with better strike rate. I was entirely focussing on myself.
India recently lost in the semi-finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup. How impactful can WPL be for Indian players to handle pressure situations?
It is important because… personally, we have players like Meg Lanning and Marizanne Kapp in our side. Other teams have big players as well, who have handled pressure really well (in international cricket). They’ve won games for their teams. So, those situations (in international cricket) will be quite similar here. I would love to pick Meg Lanning’s brains. I’d love to see how she goes about her work.