How did RCB win the WPL?

All it took for RCB to break their curse was for women's cricket to get a league and for one of the greatest players ever to be on their team and take her career-best figures. 

How did RCB win the WPL?

Ellyse Perry delivered an over per match through the first six games. That number is important because she would take a six-wicket haul against Mumbai later in the season. All it took for RCB to break their curse was for women's cricket to get a league and for one of the greatest players ever to be on their team and take her career-best figures. 

Being an RCB fan has been a world of hurt. You can have as many photoshoots of Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Gayle and whoever else you want, but this was a team where the fans instantly got on board. They had to deal with Test lineups, Vijay Mallya shenanigans and Corey Anderson being a death bowler.  

And it wasn't like this season was progressing so well for the women's team that their fans were preparing for celebrations. On 10th March, RCB lost by just one run while chasing 180 odd against the Delhi Capitals, despite Richa Ghosh's 51 off 29 deliveries. This was a team who were zero and five against Delhi and also MI before their second league game against Mumbai. That is a really poor record against the two best sides across both seasons.

Their campaign started by defending five runs off the last ball against the UP Warriorz and ended with a low-scoring chase that went down to the last over. Their two key players, Sophie Devine (though her contribution in the final should not be forgotten) and Renuka Singh, were far from their best.

That meant Perry had to stand up. This is a player who has done it before with a broken leg in a World Cup final. Weirdly, despite the fact that her ridiculous all-round achievements automatically put her in the GOAT conversations, she had to work on her T20 game. Ben Sawyer talked about how she was challenged with being dropped. She had fallen behind like Mithali Raj did. A relic of another era. But this was the new Perry. 

What about her batting partner, Richa Ghosh? The talented keeper-batter played some of her best knocks when RCB were in trouble. Her partnership with Perry against Mumbai came when they were 39/3. Her 62 off 37 against UPW in their first match was after coming in at 54/3. Against Delhi in that loss, she brought the equation down to 2 off 1 from 89 off 49 when she arrived. 

A big part of RCB having a much better season this time was down to Smriti Mandhana’s return to form. She had a poor campaign in 2023, scoring just 149 runs in 8 innings. This time, she doubled that total and finished fourth on the top run-getters list. Her runs carried them through the fact Heather Knight didn't play and Devine's form never showed.

She explained that her decision to skip the WBBL and play domestic cricket was planned for two reasons - to be able to identify domestic talent from first-hand experience and to get her own basics right.

S Meghana played a small yet crucial role too. Even though she was in and out of the side, her opening partnership with Mandhana helped set the tone in several games.

But the most fascinating aspect of RCB's title-winning campaign was their spin quartet of Shreyanka Patil, Sophie Molineux, Asha Sobhana and Georgia Wareham - two leggies, an offie and an SLA. The fact that three of them could also bat made them a more well-rounded team.

Georgia Wareham is competitive. In the nets, she was thinking about the next T20 World Cup when bowling to Smriti Mandhana. Her strike rate of 163.24 was the highest by any batter who played more than 50 balls in the season. She scored a crucial 18 off 10 balls and took Nat Sciver-Brunt's wicket against Mumbai Indians in the eliminator.

Picture Credits - ESPNcricinfo

But when Mumbai needed 20 runs in the last three overs of the match with Harmanpreet Kaur and Amelia Kerr in the middle, the win predictors were definitely not in their favor. RCB's spinners turned - pun intended - that game around.

Picture Credits - ESPNcricinfo

Shreyanka Patil changed things by dismissing Harman in the 18th over. The 21-year-old showed promise on both sides of the ball in the inaugural edition of the WPL. She followed that up by being the highest wicket-taker in CPL 2023 and making her T20I debut. The talent is pretty obvious.

But Shreyanka did not have a great start in this year’s WPL, picking up only two wickets in the first four matches at the Chinnaswamy stadium. However, her tally of 11 wickets in the Delhi leg of the tournament meant that she won the Purple Cap. Quite the in-season comeback. 

In her own words, the off-spinner is a different beast when there’s a little turn. In the final, she dismissed Meg Lanning and cleaned up the tail. She took her second four-wicket haul against the Capitals in the season.

India Today did an exclusive interview with her coach, Arjun Dev. He talked about how confidence was her standout trait. And you can really see it in the way she bowls, fields and bats. For someone who grew up as an RCB fan in Bengaluru, winning the title means a lot more.

Smriti Mandhana talked about how they kept tracking Sophie Molineux’s progress because she was injured. Her selection made sense, because RCB used her as an all-phase bowling option and floated her around with the bat throughout the tournament.

Molineux started the tournament by defending 5 off the last ball in the opening match, and was pivotal in RCB’s final win. She dismissed Shafali Varma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Alice Capsey in the eighth over of the innings, and the team never looked back since.

Picture Credits - ESPNcricinfo

Asha Sobhana grew up making balls out of paper, wrapping them with milk packets, and bats out of coconut tree bark. This is someone who had to make cricket happen. Then she got stuck in the domestic circuit for a decade, low paid, poor conditions, the sort of thing you only do for love.

She earned her moments, and what were they? She became the first Indian to take a fifer in the WPL. That would be enough, but she also defended 12 runs in the last over of the eliminator. Not sure how anyone played her with bats made out of bark. 

This is the team that broke the RCB curse. Vijay Mallya is no longer just in exile, he has been exorcized. 

Those fans who have lived through all the mismanagement, terrible signings, allergy to picking bowlers and everything else, finally have a win. And these fans really supported this team. For them the gender meant less than the badge on the chest. They earned this win as much as the players out on the field. 

On the tenth of March, when RCB fans had just another heartbreaking loss to add to their collection, Richa Ghosh couldn't get them over the Delhi Capitals. A week later, she hit the winning runs. It wasn't as great an innings as the one before. But to an RCB fan, it was by far the most important.