WPL 2023 final, the latest chapter in Meg Lanning-Harmanpreet Kaur captaincy saga

After coming second to Lanning in many high-stakes games over the years, Harmanpreet is finally looking to get one past her

S Sudarshanan

Harmanpreet Kaur and Meg Lanning pose with the WPL trophy before the final BCCI

Despite some celebrations, both Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet Kaur were focused on the eve of the first WPL final. As captains of their respective national teams, they are quite used to this routine. After all, they led Australia and India in two title fights that have played a huge role in the changing landscape of women’s cricket over the past three years – the 2020 T20 World Cup final, which drew 86,174 people to the MCG, and the match for the gold medal in Birmingham last year when women’s T20 cricket made its debut at the Commonwealth Games.

Lanning and Harmanpreet have long been T20I captains. Lanning has led Australia in 100 of the 132 T20Is she has played. Harmanpreet has done the same for India on 96 of their 151 T20I missions. But when the two teams, with Lanning and Harmanpreet at the helm, met, Australia often had the upper hand, winning ten T20Is against India’s three. And needless to be reminded, while space is running out in Lanning’s trophy cabinet, the Indian women’s recent U19 win is their only world title.

So Sunday’s final isn’t just about Mumbai Indians taking on Delhi Capitals. Harmanpreet will finally want to get past Lanning in a high-stakes game.

Both Harmanpreet and Lanning are equally passionate leaders, but they act in very different ways. Harmanpreet is someone who wears her heart on her sleeve. Think of Alyssa Healy’s dismissal in The Eliminator. Harmanpreet was pumped after taking the hook to sack the UP Warriorz captain and made it clear through her celebration how much that wicket meant to Mumbai.

Meg Lanning is the WPL’s leading runs scorer BCCI

On the other hand, Lanning is almost inscrutable. After Capitals defeated Warriorz in their last league game to confirm direct qualification for the Finals, all they had to offer was dugout applause and hugs.

Read  Everything you need to know about Ferrari's sporting and strategy director Inaki Rueda

Some of Harmanpreet’s headline-grabbing strikes in international cricket came against Australia. Her 171st non-out in the semifinals of the 2017 ODI World Cup – she wasn’t captain at the time – against Lanning-led Australia propelled women’s cricket into the mainstream in India. She was right in the thick of it – the climax of a group stage win over Australia at the 2018 World T20 Championship and the nadir of a narrow defeat in the 2020 Tri-Series Final, the Commonwealth Games Final and more recently last month’s heartbreaking defeat in the T20 World Championship semi-finals .

“Australia have always done well since I started playing and they always have great captains,” said Harmanpreet, who sat next to Lanning at the final WPL pre-game press conference. “They always have a good team with Meg and it’s easy for them to make those changes and give themselves a good challenge. They have a balanced team in this WPL and they are leading from the front.”

Lanning was the leading run-getter for most of the WPL and is the only player among the finalists to have over 300 runs. They’ve gotten to a strike rate of 141.55 without really becoming a hammer and tongs. She formed an impressive opening combination with Shafali Verma.

Harmanpreet Kaur is never afraid to express himself on the pitch ICC/Getty Images

“The most important thing to learn from her is that she doesn’t depend on players,” said Harmanpreet. “She’s someone who leads from the front, like in this WPL. That’s something you expect from a manager. When a manager takes responsibility from the front, the team is good. That’s something I always see and learn from her.

Read  Spurs vs. Pacers Preview: How to Watch, Lineups, Injury News, More

“She is not one to give up early, we will have to fight to the end and we are ready for that.”

That last line could also have referred to last month’s semi-final, where India appeared to control much of the chase before Australia clawed back to knock them out.

Just like that day, Lanning knows she has another fight ahead of her. “Fighting Harman is always a good challenge,” she said. “She has shown that she is an outstanding leader and achieves results both individually and for her team. I always look forward to such challenges. It’s always great competition to go up against a Harman-managed team and I expect exactly the same tomorrow night.”

So Lanning and Harmanpreet meet again in another landmark match in women’s cricket. While the competition on the pitch will be intense, it also has a celebratory atmosphere. The smiles returned to the faces of both captains as the presser came to an end.

Hum Logon ne thodi na rope lagaya hai, jinhone rope lagaya hai aap unko pucho na [We haven’t put the ropes. You should ask those who have]’ replied Harmanpreet when asked about the smaller size of the borders at this tournament, causing laughter in the room.

We’re less than 24 hours away from the very first WPL finals. And this time, whoever wins, whether Lanning or Harmanpreet, it will be a win for Indian cricket.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button