Australian batter Beth Mooney, who had always dreamed of an IPL-style women’s tournament, was delighted to be selected by the Gujarat Giants at the WPL auction. But a call from former India captain Mithali Raj, mentor to the Giants, asking her to become captain wasn’t what Mooney expected.
“When I got bid on the auction I was just happy to be a part of it and the captain wasn’t something that was on my radar,” said Mooney on the eve of the WPL opener against Mumbai Indians at the DY Patil Stadium. “Mithali called me and said, ‘We’d love for you (captain) to do it and we’re happy if you want to. So just let us know.” After a few conversations with Rachael (Haynes, head coach) then we both thought it was the right time for me to challenge myself to cricket.”
Mooney, who landed in India and only joined the team on Wednesday, will be captaining at the highest level for the first time. She has captained the Queensland Fire in the Women’s NCL and the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL but has never captained a T20 team at a higher level. The Giants also have a first head coach at Haynes who only retired from all formats after the previous WBBL season. Mooney, who is fresh off her man of the match performance in Australia’s sixth Women’s T20 World Cup title on Sunday, said she trusted her former Australian teammate’s judgment and was looking forward to the experience.
“I know Rachael Haynes pretty well (and that’s a good thing) that I can work pretty closely with her,” she said. “She is in her first job as a head coach. I haven’t been captain lately, but I did a lot when I was younger. I have some experience. I trust Rach and her judgment, so I was more than happy to help her.”
“I’d rather see someone go out and try something they’ve been working on in training and maybe come out than go back into their shell”
One of the additional challenges of leading a franchise team in the WPL for Mooney will be knowing and utilizing the best Indian players at the disposal of the Giants. She discussed the team with Haynes and received information from Raj. More importantly, Mooney was resolute in instilling the brave attitude of the players Australia is famous for as they scored a hat-trick in the T20 World Cup for the second time.
Since the 2017 Women’s ODI World Cup semi-final, Australia has won the T20 World Cups in 2018, 2020 – where Mooney was the tournament’s competitor – and 2023, along with the 2022 Women’s ODI World Cup Birmingham. The WPL teams will face each other twice in the league stage and Mooney said it’s important to keep up the momentum and a team’s fate is not necessarily decided in the opening games.
“It’s just about understanding that these tournaments are not won or lost in the first few games,” she said. “We see teams around the world and in Australia that can lose momentum quickly if you let a few losses derail the group. It’s also about catching momentum. I think the only way you can do that is to stay calm under pressure and always go for the bolder option. I will try to instill this in the group as much as I can.
“I’d rather see someone go out and try something they’ve been working on in training and maybe come out than go back into their shell, especially with a bat and ball. They may try a substitution or a slower ball when play is on the line. They might miss a bit, but they tried their skills and almost made it. It takes a long way to go, and then it’s okay if they fail at first.
Having only recently joined the group, Mooney hoped to rely on the coaching staff’s judgment in the first few games before she really added her flavor.
It was bought at an auction price of INR 2 crore, dismissed the extra price pressure and said: “I’m not sure the pressure is much more. I shouldn’t play if I put pressure on myself. to complete. No one else can put more on me than I can put on myself.
S Sudarshanan is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo