UP Warriorz endured a rollercoaster ride in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League. With four wins and four losses in eight games and a number of thrilling finals including, this team has seen it all.
In this context, Tahlia McGrath, the batting order’s most reliable anchor, is the epitome of calm.
“Yes, it has been a very up and down season for us. We seem to love tight, exciting finals,” McGrath told Sportstar ahead of a crucial playoff clash against Mumbai Indians.
Negotiate with nervousness
“We’ve played really good cricket and we’ve been a little bit bad at times, but there’s a very important message from our team and it’s to take the game as much as possible, play with freedom,” he told McGrath.
UP Warriorz became the third best team in the league behind Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians. Warriorz meet MI in a playoff to decide who faces Delhi in Sunday’s summit game.
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With this opponent as well, UPW has a 50-50 record, with an eight-wicket thrashing by Harmanpreet Kaur and company and a narrow five-wicket win scrawled on the ledger. Warriorz was the side to break through a dominant unbeaten run for MI, but McGrath believes Friday’s playoffs will wipe the slate clean.
“We probably should have won the first one. So we go there with confidence. However, what happened in the league phase is now irrelevant. We’ll try to play our aggressive brand of cricket with a smile on our face, which is what we’ve done all season and hopefully be in Sunday’s final,” said McGrath.
The Australian all-rounder is the world’s top T20I hitter and lived up to that reputation with 295 runs in eight games at a 59.00 average (best given the number of games she’s played, but second best to teammate Grace Harris, who reached an average of 72). after five games). However, the 27-year-old didn’t have the best start to the tournament, falling for a golden duck in the Warriorz’ opening game against the Gujarat Giants.
“I’ll never forget the first game when I came out with the first ball and I was commended for playing an attacking shot and trying to take over the game. It’s really nice when you have the support of your teammates and your coaching staff. And yeah, I suppose we’re going out with freedom and trying to push the boundaries, making big scores and chasing totals,” McGrath recalled.
Australia, currently the most dominant team in world cricket, is well represented in the Women’s Premier League at 14. The most expensive foreign player is also an Australian – Ashleigh Gardner (who signed Gujarat for INR 3.2 crore). The Orange Cap oscillates between Meg Lanning and McGrath – both Aussies. The league began with three out of five franchises opting for Australian captains – Beth Mooney (Giants), Lanning (Delhi) and Alyssa Healy (Warriorz). The importance given to the players from below is justified when looking at their performances in the tournament. On a personal level, the players also have a sense of vindication considering they were one of the biggest advocates for India’s entry into the women’s cricket ecosystem.
“We have been asking for this competition for a number of years and it will certainly be delivered. The fact that so many more franchise leagues are opening around the world is so exciting for women’s cricket. This one was a bit different than Big Bash and The Hundred because I think there’s so much hype. There is so much attention and there is so much passion for cricket. I’ve never been required for so many media interactions. We kind of feel like rock stars. Everything about this experience and India is just next level!” she added.
Balancing self-improvement and mentoring
After a slip in the first game, McGrath bounced back with four over fifty points, including an unbeaten 90 against Delhi Capitals earlier in the season. However, WPL hasn’t seen as much of McGrath’s bowling prowess as to be unhappy about it.
“I miss bowling. It’s part of my game. I love being an all-rounder. I love to contribute wherever I can, but. I haven’t been good with the ball this season, not just in this tournament but all season. So I’ve already marked that when I go home. I’m going to take a little break from cricket and then I really want my bowling back because it’s not fun just playing. I found that I need to improve and work on it,” she said.
Meanwhile, McGrath helps her younger teammates fine-tune their games, citing U19-T20 world champion and tournament top scorer Shweta Sehrawat as her most avid colleague.
“Just yesterday Shweta asked me a lot of questions. We compared photos when I won the World Cup with Australia and when they won the U19 World Cup. She just bangs my head about the spanking and I love that. The way she handles the spanking is completely different from the way I deal with the spanking. So it’s really interesting to chat, share similarities, share differences and just try to learn from each other. It was a bit distant at first but now the Indian girls feel so comfortable coming to us and just asking any questions they have. So that was a really enjoyable part of this tournament too,” added McGrath.
keeping things simple
But what is Tahlia McGrath’s formula for success?
“For me, it’s about being simple, enjoying it and not overcomplicating it, which is very simple, but it just works for me. I know my game pretty well. I stick to my strengths and try not to overcomplicate things.”
It helps that McGrath has Healy’s calming energy in the group. As captain, Healy had a remarkable campaign, reassuring her players in tense situations and being a source of inspiration for the younger generation, even in situations when she wasn’t shooting the racquet. It’s a support system she’s used to on the Aussie team and the energy there is balanced by tactically sharp lanning.
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“Yes, they are very different personalities and they both work very well together. Two talented cricketers with different strengths – I think that’s why the Australian team works so well because everyone brings something different to the team. From a leadership perspective, Meg is a tactical genius. Everything runs like clockwork. Midge (Healy) is more inspirational. She knows exactly what to say to put players at ease, to bring out the best in players, and every time she speaks everyone stops and listens and somehow gets inspired by what she is saying. So we in the Australian team are very fortunate that the captain and vice-captain work so well together and I think this competition is very fortunate to see two great leaders and have a lot of players learn from them as well,” she added.
The Bigger Picture
Healy heralded her 33rd birthday a day ahead of UP Warriorz to secure their place in the finals, and McGrath is hoping the side can land him for their skipper. In doing so, she has not lost sight of the big picture, the experience of this month in India.
“A few days ago we were on a jet boat, going to a mansion, like sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say, ‘Wow, I’m really lucky to be in this position.’ The momentum was great. We came together and quickly came together as a team. Our focus throughout the tournament is to enjoy each other’s company, embrace the experience and play with a smile on your face. When we do that and enjoy our time, we play good cricket,” she concluded.
UP Warriorz take on Mumbai Indians in the WPL playoff at DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai. Game starts at 7:30pm IST.