As another miserable Giants season comes to a conclusion, Klinger looks for consistency and stability.

The Gujarat Giants’ WPL 2024 campaign came to an official end with a comprehensive seven-wicket loss to the Delhi Capitals, and captain Beth Mooney of the team made a hint that she would not be captain come next season. Shortly after, head coach Michael Klinger argued for the exact opposite, preferring stability over drastic changes so that the team wouldn’t have to start over in the third season.

In response to a query about the preparation they would need to do in the off-season in order to return better in 2025, Klinger stated, “I certainly don’t want to see there being a huge turnover like there was last year because we need some stability and some continuity as well.” “It’s only advantageous moving forward when you consider some of the other teams who kept the majority of their roster together. Therefore, I most definitely wouldn’t anticipate a turnover that is as high as it was previous year. We need to take a seat and go through this. We haven’t done it yet because we still have a good amount of time to pursue it,” he continued.

The Giants’ WPL season has been disappointing for the second straight year; they have only won two of their eight games and are stuck at the bottom of the five-team standings. Prior to the second edition, they made a number of changes, releasing ten of their eighteen-man roster. They then abruptly changed the backroom staff, with the most notable being the announcement at the last minute that Klinger would take over as head coach, replacing former Australia vice-captain Rachael Haynes.

As a result, Klinger was unable to influence auction tactics or selections, therefore he began his first season of WPL coaching with a squad that was predetermined for him. The Australian, who has coached in the BBL and WBBL before, stated that the team will carefully examine the domestic talent pool in front of the upcoming auction to fill the current voids.

Before the next auction, there will be time to watch some domestic cricket, so we can check in with some of our own players to see how they’re doing as well as with other players. As an organisation and a franchise, we will undoubtedly search everywhere in India for exceptional players, and we will not stop until we find them. Even with someone like Bharti [Fulmali] tonight, who’s had a decent domestic season, she put her best foot forward to stay with us moving forward even though she was a substitution.”

Apart from Fulmali, who was brought in to replace an injured Harleen Deol halfway through the tournament, Klinger has been all over the uncapped Indians on the Giants roster, praising 16-year-old pacer Shabnam Shakil as a future superstar and repeatedly praising left-arm spinner Tanuja Kanwer for her consistency. With 10 wickets in eight innings at an economy of 7.13, Kanwer concluded the WPL 2024 league stages as the Giants’ greatest wicket-taker overall and tied for second place. Meanwhile, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Alyssa Healy, and Chamari Athapaththu lead young Shakil’s victim list.

Klinger stated that finding these talented players was one of the bright spots of the otherwise dismal season, even if they finished the season in fifth place once again.

“I believe that since last year, there have undoubtedly been minor advancements. We’ve discovered a few little players who, in my opinion, will play a significant role in the Gujarat Giants’ future. Tanuja has been our most reliable player overall; she has been amazing the entire competition. Shabnam, to discover a gift that I believe is extraordinary. That will therefore serve us well.

A slight over-reliance on our betting has occurred. We played well when they performed well. didn’t aid us when we were injured early in the competition. Therefore, there are a few things we can learn from it for next year. A few local players have shown flashes here and there, and if they can maintain that level of play moving forward, we should be stronger.”

Even before the competition started, the Giants’ campaign suffered a blow when their highly publicised INR 2 million acquisition Kashvee Gautam was forced to miss time with an injury. The withdrawal of Australian left-arm pacer Lauren Cheatle dealt another damage to the pace department. GG, who were without a win after four games, lost their great all-around player Harleen Deol to a knee injury, which allowed Fulmali to enter the WPL late. The head coach praised the Vidarbha batter after he finished with a valiant 36-ball 42 in the last game, which helped the team defeat DC by a solid 126/9.

But among those who saw regular opportunities in the starting lineup, the Giants were left high and dry by the underwhelming performances of Ash Gardner and Phoebe Litchfield, two of their most costly acquisitions, who both Australians.

The seasoned Gardner, who has 85 international caps, returned just seven wickets in eight innings at an economy of 7.75, a far cry from her career economy record of 6.7. She only managed 120 runs in eight innings, with a strike-rate of 111 and a best hand of 40. Her batting skills were also lacklustre. Litchfield, who received an eight-figure salary for her first WPL assignment, managed to score just 108 runs at a strike rate of little more than run per ball. The left-handed hitter had experienced considerable success in the Indian ODI format a little over a month prior, amassing 260 runs in three innings, including her second century in the competition.

Klinger, on the other hand, came out in favour of both of the great players, believing that Litchfield can quickly turn things around and that Gardner, despite his dismal performance this season, has a versatile skill set.

She works so hard. About her efforts and the mindset she brings to every game, there’s no question,” Klinger stated of the 20-year-old Litchfield. “It just hasn’t clicked for her, and she may be having trouble finding the solution since not too long ago, she was amazing and performing so well for Australia in India. However, she is only twenty years old, so she needs to return, stronger and bigger. I have no doubt that she will succeed in cricket, regardless of whether she plays for Australia in Bangladesh in a week or back here in the WPL next year.

“This tournament has shown that sometimes, when you’re a little out of nick, the first or second risk you take doesn’t exactly work out. Someone this young will take the lesson to heart and grow up.

“It’s challenging to practise specific skills and work on things during these competitions where we play game after game without enough time. She simply didn’t succeed in this competition, and that’s alright. She’s not old. She still has more than ten years of career left. I wouldn’t be shocked if she won Player of the Tournament when she plays in the WPL later this year and beyond. I’m confident she’ll return next year, stronger than ever,” Klinger said.

Klinger stated of Gardner, “I think she had a pretty good season.” Although I haven’t looked at her precise statistics, you must keep in mind that she is our go-to resource for anything.

“She bowls in powerplay when the batters are going big, and we bring her on and she bowls in death overs for us. She can strike with the bat at the right time or bowl difficult overs.”

“I haven’t really looked into statistics, so you could make an argument. She bowls four overs per game, is a vital batter down the middle, is among our strongest, fittest, and most experienced players. She is also one of our top fielders. I have no problems, although you might argue that she might have wanted to perform a little bit better.”

Even after paying INR 3.2 crore for Gardner, the most expensive Giant, Klinger felt that he was the team’s “no. 1 off-spinner” and did not hesitate to sideline Sneh Rana, the vice captain, for the final two games in favour of match-ups. Given that their final two games, when they still had a remote chance of making the Eliminator, were against right-heavy batting lineups, Klinger said the strategic decision was taken and stuck with.

“Ash Gardner is our best offspinner. It was all about match-ups, nothing more. The last two games, we didn’t feel that we needed eight overs of off-spin against players who were mostly right-handed. As you witnessed tonight with Shafali [Verma] vs Ash, the stats indicate that they were rather formidable against ff-spin. The last game was remarkably similar.

“TK Kanwer and Mannat [Kashyap, who came in for Rana in the XI] both bowled pretty well in the last game, in my opinion. We felt we didn’t need as many overs of off-spin against the two teams [we faced] because of the match-up.

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