As one of the two franchises in the Women’s Premier League without an existing base in the Indian Premier League, Adani Group-owned Gujarat Giants are in uncharted territory compared to the other teams.

In some ways, that came across at the auction table too. With recently-retired mentor Mithali Raj, recently-retired head coach Rachael Haynes and the domestic coaching stalwart that is Nooshin Al Khadeer in charge, they went after international players early. For a long time, they barely had any Indian presence in the squad, before (unsurprisingly) picking up a few Railways players and filling out the squad with domestic talent.

Al Khadeer had said on the day auction, “We spend a lot of time at the domestic level, we do understand there is depth at the domestic level, so it was important to pick the right international talent early on. We are happy with the balance, and the combination. We want to finish the auction to decide who will lead the side.”

That decision was eventually to appoint Australia opener Beth Mooney, who is fresh off her player-of-the-match performance in the T20 World Cup final. Mooney’s place as one of the most bankable openers is in no question but leadership at the highest level will be a new challenge for her.

“Captaincy wasn’t something that was on my radar. When I got bid on in the auction, I was just happy to be a part of it,” Mooney said at the pre-tournament press conference. “Mithali gave me a phone call and said ‘we’d like you to do it and we’re happy if you want to. So just let us know’. After a couple of conversations with Rachael after that, we both thought that the time was right for me to challenge myself within cricket.

“I know Rachael quite well, she’s in her first job as a head coach. I haven’t done a lot of captaincy recently but I did a fair bit when I was younger. I have got a little bit of experience. I trust Rach and her judgement and so I was more than happy to help her out.”

Full squad

Player name Country State Association Age Specialism C/U/A Reserve Price Rs Lakh Bid (In Rs Lakh)
Ashleigh Gardner Australia 25 All-rounder Capped 50 320
Beth Mooney Australia 29 Wicketkeeper Capped 40 200
Sneh Rana India RSPB 29 All-rounder Capped 50 75
Georgia Wareham Australia 23 All-rounder Capped 30 75
Annabel Sutherland Australia 21 All-rounder Capped 30 70
Kim Garth* Australia 26 All-rounder Capped 50 60
Sushma Verma India HPCA 30 Wicketkeeper Capped 30 60
Sophia Dunkley England 24 Batter Capped 30 60
Tanuja Kanwer India RSPB 27 All-rounder Uncapped 10 50
Harleen Deol India HPCA 24 All-rounder Capped 40 40
Ashwani Kumari India JSCA 25 All-rounder Uncapped 10 35
Sabbineni Meghana India RSPB 26 Batter Capped 30 30
Mansi Joshi India CAU 29 All-rounder Capped 30 30
Dayalan Hemalatha India RSPB 28 All-rounder Capped 30 30
Monica Patel India KSCA 23 Bowler Capped 30 30
Hurley Gala India MCA 16 All-rounder Uncapped 10 10
Shabnam Shakil India ACA 15 Bowler Uncapped 10 10
Parunika Sisodia India DDCA 17 Bowler Uncapped 10 10
*It'd appear that Kim Garth has replaced Deandra Dottin in the squad, official confirmation is awaited

Ideal playing XI

S Meghana, Beth Mooney (C & WK), Sophia Dunkley, Harleen Deol, Ash Gardner, D Hemalatha, Sneh Rana, Georgia Wareham / Annabel Sutherland, Mansi Joshi, Tanuja Kanwer, Monica Patel

While Rana and Deol have been around the Indian set-up in recent years, the Giants go into the tournament without a nailed-on starter from the national team. It is a bold choice, one that is based on the think-tank’s belief that they are aware of what the domestic talent can offer.

Given the Giants went big for their international stars, the squad will fill up in a similar manner with Mooney, Gardner and Dunkley nailed-on starters. Sabbineni Meghana perhaps should be playing more for India than she does and she will be driven to show what she is capable of.

The batting order is relatively straightforward. It would appear Deandra Dottin is not available for the tournament with double-international Kim Garth coming in late. While Dottin would have taken the fourth overseas spot, now it is likely to go between Sutherland and Wareham depending on conditions.

In left-arm spinner Tanuja Kanwer, Giants have one of the top wicket-takers from the recent domestic season. Mansi Joshi and Monica Patel will offer two pace bowling options, but one of them could make way for a spinner if conditions dictate.

Most valuable player

There cannot be an easier choice. We could go as far as saying that none of the five teams in the WPL inaugural edition could be as dependent on the success of one player as Gujarat Giants would be on Ash Gardner. In terms of match-winning potential in a T20, especially if high-scoring affairs are the norm, Gardner is so vital to Giants’ success. The player of the tournament from the T20 World Cup in South Africa must hit the ground running in that sort of mode from the get-go.

Coaching staff

The first big move once the teams were formed came from Giants when they brought in the legendary Mithali Raj as their mentor and advisor. Another modern great Rachael Haynes, who only retired from the game at the end of WBBL recently, will be the team’s head coach. Donning the role of bowling coach is the former India cricketer, Nooshin Al Khadeer, who is fresh from leading India U19 to the World Cup title. Former India head coach Tushar Arothe is the team’s batting coach and Gavan Twining will be the team’s fielding coach.

Haynes has been an integral part of the Australian winning machine in recent times and along with Matthew Mott and Meg Lanning, is credited with bringing about the side’s dominance post the 2017 World Cup exit. In Nooshin, Giants have a coach who has been a serial winner in the domestic circuit as well as the Women’s T20 Challenge. Arothe was at the helm when the Mithali Raj-led Indian team reached the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2017.

Strengths and weaknesses

With a strong Australian and Railways presence, Gujarat Giants have an interesting line-up in place but they must be wary of the unknown. Giants seem to have too many variables that could go either way.

The strength is without doubt a strong Australian presence. Given how far ahead Aussies have been ahead in the women’s game, it is a strategy that could well pay off. In Gardner, they have someone capable of winning at least three/four matches on her own. In Mooney, they have a run-machine who can hold one end up (while scoring at a good clip, mind you) and let the rest of the lineup do damage. In Sutherland and Wareham they have two youngsters who are going to be around the Australian set-up for a long time to come.

But the more one looks at the squad, the more the Indian presence becomes a concern. While the likes of Meghana and Hemalatha have great record in domestic cricket, it will be a challenge to translate that quickly at this level. The bowling lineup too appears a little bit light, with a lot of responsibility on Sneh Rana’s shoulders.

Listening to Mooney in the press conference, there is a sense that they are still trying to get to know the squad composition and the first two matches will largely come down to the management more than the captain. Giants have two matches in two days to start the tournament and that means before they know it, there is a chance they could be 0-2. In a short tournament, that might be an issue.

On the flip side, if their match-winners fire in the first weekend, they have the quality in their squad to carry them through. And as an aside, we have seen what happened in 2008 with an Australian captain and a group of lesser-known domestic players too.


MATCH NO. DAY Date Match Timing IST Venue
1 Sat 4-Mar-23 GG vs MI 7:30 PM DY Patil Stadium
3 Sun 5-Mar-23 UPW vs GG 7:30 PM DY Patil Stadium
6 Wed 8-Mar-23 GG vs RCB 7:30 PM Brabourne - CCI
9 Sat 11-Mar-23 GG vs DC 7:30 PM DY Path Stadium
12 Tue 14-Mar-23 MI vs GG 7:30 PM Brabourne - CCI
14 Thu 16-Mar-23 DC vs GG 7:30 PM Brabourne - CCI
16 Sat 18-Mar-23 RCB vs GG 7:30 PM Brabourne - CCI
17 Mon 20-Mar-23 GG vs UPW 3:30 PM Brabourne - CCI