In March 2023, Harmanpreet Kaur ended an unwanted streak. For the first time, she was on the right end of a final in a high-profile tournament.

Internationally, with the Indian team, she had finished runner-up at the 2017 ICC Women’s One-Day International World Cup and the 2020 Twenty20 World Cup. But, with the Mumbai Indians in the inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League, she would not be denied.

“I have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” she had said in the press conference after that triumph.

Now, as the second season of the league begins, the 34-year-old captain will be going through a new feeling. For the first time, she will be experiencing what it is like to defend a title.

And with the way the Mumbai Indians setup looks, on paper, the franchise has the ingredients to concoct yet another winning formula.

Mumbai finished second in the group stage last term with six wins and two losses with the Delhi Capitals securing the top spot thanks to a marginally superior net run rate.

But they left no doubt that they belonged in the final with a confident 72-run win over the UP Warriorz in the eliminator, before a thrilling win in the final.

With a winning squad, the management did not make many changes to the side heading into the pre-season auction.

In fact, the franchise has retained the services of the core players that had won them the trophy last year. And that familiarity between the players – stemming from the chemistry they forged between them last year – may just hold them in good stead this time around.

Also read: WPL 2024: Format, schedule, squads – All you need to know about the second edition

Injuries and withdrawals

Not only does Mumbai Indians have a steady side that they inherited from last year’s winning season, they will have a full squad to choose from when they play the season opener on Friday against the Delhi Capitals.

Strength and weaknesses

The Mumbai Indians have a strong batting unit with the likes of Hayley Matthews, Natalie Sciver-Brunt, Yastika Bhatia, Kaur and Amelia Kerr, to name a few. That will be an asset when it comes to playing at the batter-friendly pitches in Bangalore and New Delhi.

In the bowling department the management broke the bank at the auction and bought veteran South African pacer Shabnim Ismail, for Rs 1.2 crore. It will give Kaur another bowling option in a team which – possibly their only great weakness – does not have enough specialist bowlers.

This is a team stacked with talented all-rounders who make up a batter-heavy squad.

Players to watch out for

Hayley Matthews: The most-valuable player of last season will no doubt be one of the leading figures of the Mumbai Indians squad this term. She had chipped in with 16 wickets – to finish as the highest wicket-taker – and 271 runs last year. The 25-year-old from Barbados, a T20 World Cup winner with the West Indies in 2016, is now in her 10th year of international cricket after making her debut in 2014.

All that experience will be expected to come to the fore once again.

Natalie Sciver-Brunt: The English-cricketer was the second highest run-scorer last term and was the player of the match in the final. An experienced figure who is a key component of the Mumbai Indians batting unit, Sciver-Brunt is also a potent medium pacer who was first woman from her country to take a hat-trick in international cricket.

In a batting-heavy line-up, her abilities with the bowl will be crucial for the team.

Squad: Amanjot Kaur, Amelia Kerr*, Chloe Tryon*, Harmanpreet Kaur, Hayley Matthews*, Humaira Kazi, Issy Wong*, Jintimani Kalita, Nat Sciver-Brunt*, Pooja Vastrakar, Priyanka Bala, Saika Ishaque, Yastika Bhatia, Shabnim Ismail*, S Sajana, Amandeep Kaur, Fatima Jaffer, SB Keerthana

— * denotes an overseas player

Predicted XI: Hayley Matthews*, Yastika Bhatia, Natalie Sciver-Brunt*, Harmanpreet Kaur, Amelia Kerr*, Pooja Vastrakar, Issy Wong*, Humaira Kazi, Saika Ishaque, Amanjot Kaur, Amandeep Kaur,

— * denotes an overseas player