Match Preview – DC Women vs RCB Women, Women’s Premier League 2023/24, Final

Big Picture: A celebration of talent

Raging debates about the need for a tournament like the WPL feel all too recent.

They said there wasn’t enough talent depth to split into enough teams to form a league and captivate audiences. On Friday evening, 25,000 fans packed into the Arun Jaitley Stadium to witness Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator.

On Sunday, the same crowd will turn fanatical in their support for Delhi Capitals, who will have a second shot at WPL glory. Last year, they let nerves get the better of them against Mumbai. Things may turn out differently this time with a stadium full of people cheering them on.

Capitals have got here on the back of a dominating run in the group stage. Twice in two seasons now, they’ve made the finals directly by topping the pool. RCB’s journey has been bumpy. Having opened with two wins, they suffered a mid-season slump, before putting it past the defending champions twice to make it here.

Not surprisingly, the history of both these sides, in the IPL, has been brought up quite a bit. Capitals and RCB have part of that tournament since 2008 but neither of them have won anything – Capitals have made only one final previously, RCB three. So this much is for sure: one of them will be making space for a first trophy.

Both teams have invested heavily in their scouting system. Asha Sobhana’s nerveless final over on Friday night to dethrone Mumbai was a ringing endorsement of this. At 33, it’s possible she would have been a mere footnote in several domestic scorecards if not for an opportunity at the WPL.

Capitals have identified a core group of young Indian players to drive them forward. Arundhati Reddy and Radha Yadav, who hadn’t been in the conversation as far as the Indian team goes, are part of this. Compelling performances here, a byproduct of fierce backing from Meg Lanning and the coaching staff. Now, a national call-up won’t seem so surprising.

Shafali Verma’s chats with Lanning about becoming ruthless and consistent and adding new gears to her game are bound to have a ripple effect. Minnu Mani’s smile and Lanning’s embrace after she spun one past Ash Gardner’s defence told you of how a team culture that empowers young players to discover themselves and grow as individuals has already reaped dividends.

Shreyanka Patil, a find of WPL 2023, has come on leaps and bounds from there. She fought through a hairline fracture, resisting the idea of rest to prevent aggravating her injury to play Friday’s Eliminator and delivered a clutch performance.

Stories of hope, inspiration and glory will once again play out on Sunday evening on the biggest stage of them all. And it will culminate in the WPL having a new winner. It feels fitting.

Form guide

Delhi Capitals: WWLWW (Last five games)
Royal Challengers Bangalore: WWLLW

In the spotlight: Asha Sobhana and Jemimah Rodrigues

Twice this season, Asha Sobhana has helped RCB complete a sensational last-over defence. She defended 10 runs in the opener against UP Warriorz. Against Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator, she defended 11. That she has been preferred ahead of regulars like Renuka Singh reflects the confidence Smriti Mandhana has in her. At 33, Asha is not a newbie, but her exploits could put her in contention to be in India’s T20 World Cup squad in Bangladesh later this year.

After a slow start, Jemimah Rodrigues has hit form towards the business end. She has scored 38*, 58, 17 and 69* in her last four innings. Unlike last year, where she was largely an accumulator, Rodrigues has added a robust power game to help finish off innings. This versatility gives her a massive edge in India’s World Cup plans.

Likely XIs

Delhi Capitals: 1 Meg Lanning (capt), 2 Shafali Verma, 3 Alice Capsey, 4 Jemimah Rodrigues, 5 Jess Jonassen, 6 Marizanne Kapp, 7 Minnu Mani, 8 Taniya Bhatia (wk), 9 Radha Yadav, 10 Arundhati Reddy, 11 Shikha Pandey

RCB: 1 Smriti Mandhana (capt), 2 Sophie Devine, 3 Ellyse Perry, 4 Disha Kasat/S Meghana, 5 Richa Ghosh (wk), 6 Sophie Molineux, 7 Georgia Wareham, 8 Shreyanka Patil, 9 Renuka Singh, 10 Asha Sobhana, 11 Shradda Pokharkar/Ekta Bisht

Pitch and conditions: Something for the bowlers

A fresh pitch, right in the centre, will be used. Delhi has ensured decent bounce and carry for seamers, while the absence of dew has helped spinners also have a say. Toss hasn’t been as big a factor, with teams happy to bat first, like RCB did in the Eliminator.

Stats and trivia: RCB have never beaten Capitals

  • Ellyse Perry’s 6 for 15 in the final league game against Mumbai are the best figures in WPL’s short history.
  • Lanning has never been out in single digits in 17 WPL innings. But two of her lowest scores have come against RCB.
  • Marizanne Kapp’s economy rate of 6.50 is the best among those who’ve bowled at least 15 overs this season. Out of the five T20 finals she has played since 2021, Kapp was Player of the Match in the Hundred in 2021, WBBL 2021 and Hundred 2022.
  • Seven out of ten matches in the Delhi leg of this WPL have been won by the side batting first.
  • Shafali’s 17 sixes are the most by a batter so far this season. Mandhana is next best with 10.
  • RCB have never beaten Capitals in four attempts so far.
  • Quotes

    “We were just thinking we’re only two seasons into this, so let’s not take too much stress about what has happened over the last 15 years or correlating with similarities [to the men’s team].”
    RCB captain Smriti Mandhana on handling expectation

    “It is a nightmare having a 40-meter boundary on one side. That is one thing I haven’t necessarily enjoyed as a captain. There’s so much more power and strength in the game now that people are clearing the ropes pretty easily.”
    Capitals captain Meg Lanning wants even-sized boundaries

    Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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