Gujarat Giants have signed South African batter Laura Wolvaardt to replace injured skipper Beth Mooney for the remainder of the Women’s Premier League 2023 season.

The Australian batter retired hurt after sustaining a calf strain in the tournament opener against the Mumbai Indians which the Giants eventually lost by a massive 143 runs. Since then, the side is being led by Railways captain and Indian all-rounder Sneh Rana.

The franchise confirmed that Rana will now be the captain and Australian all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner will be the vice-captain for the season. It remains to be seen whether Wolvaardt will feature in the Playing XI straightaway after Dunkley scored a fiery 18-ball half century at the top of the order against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The South African star, known for elegant strokeplay, can also slot into the middle order and has a good record there too.

Wolvaardt had been drafted into play the exhibition matches in Pakistan where she played the opener on Wednesday. She will be replaced by Sune Luus, her captain, there.

sneh Rana | Sportzpics for WPL

In a statement released by the franchise, it was confirmed that Mooney did return to training subsequently but it is expected to take 4-6 weeks for her to retain full fitness and complete her rehabilitation.

“I was really looking forward to the maiden WPL season with the Adani Gujarat Giants. But unfortunately, injuries are part and parcel of the sport and I am gutted to be missing the remainder of the season,” said Mooney in the statement.

“I, however, will be keeping a close eye on the team’s performance from afar and will be rooting for them every single day. And though I will be away from the field of play for the rest of the season, I am looking forward to coming back stronger, fitter and I will definitely be hungrier next season,” she added.

Wolvaardt, who was featuring in the exhibition matches of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s Women’s League, was released by the Super Women team on Wednesday. In her sole appearance for the team on Wednesday in Rawalpindi, Wolvaardt hit an unbeaten 53. She will be replaced by South Africa captain Sune Luus in the remaining matches.

“I want to thank the PCB for this opportunity to play in the Women’s League exhibition matches. It has been an incredible short journey, but I have loved the experience. The team has been amazing and I have felt so welcoming,” Wolvaardt said in a statement released by the PCB on Wednesday.

The top scorer for the Proteas in the World Cup, with three half-centuries from six matches, Wolvaardt played a key role in helping her side reach the final of the tournament.

She added: “I cannot wait to return to Pakistan in September with the South Africa’s national women’s team and learning more about this amazing country.”

The Giants, who had to fill in an opening batter, a wicket-keeper and a captain in the absence of Mooney who played all those roles, then included English batter Sophia Dunkley and Indian wicket-keeper batter Sushma Verma in the Playing XI.

Squad change for UPW too

The UP Warriorz drafted in Maharashtra’s wicketkeeper-batter Shivali Shinde in the squad. The spot was vacated following an injury to all-rounder Laxmi Yadav during training.

The 26-year-old Shivali, who joined the squad on 8 March in Mumbai, hails from Maharashtra and has played for the state side, apart from turning out for the India-A side in the Senior Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy.

“Playing in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League for the UP Warriorz is a moment of immense pride for me. And my family is delighted that I have received this opportunity. I am looking forward to this stint and hope to pick up the tricks of the trade from some of the best cricketers in the business. Experiencing the electric atmosphere in the stadiums is something I am definitely looking forward to and I hope to be able to contribute in a substantial manner for the UP Warriorz”, Shivali said.