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Chamari Athapaththu and Deandra Dottin are most sought-after names in WPL Auction: Aakash Chopra

New Delhi, Dec 7, 2023- Former India opener Aakash Chopra believes Sri Lanka skipper Chamari Athapaththu and former West Indies big-hitting batter Deandra Dottin could become the most sought-after names in the upcoming Women’s Premier League (WPL) auction to be held on December 9 in Mumbai.

Overlooked in the inaugural WPL auction earlier this year, Chamari has kept her base price for the upcoming auction at INR 30 lakh. She was signed on by Sydney Thunder as a last-minute overseas replacement player in the WBBL.

In the competition, Chamari, 33, was the Player of the Tournament by amassing 511 runs at an average of 42.58, and a strike rate of 129.69.

She also picked up nine wickets at an economy of 6.79 with her off-spin bowling. Deandra, on the other hand, was supposed to join Gujarat Giants in WPL season one, but couldn’t play due to a medical situation, something which was strongly refuted by her.

Since her international retirement, Deandra has been a regular at the franchise leagues circuit and has kept her WPL auction base price at INR 50 lakh.

“The main Indian players haven’t been released. So, there will be a lot of focus on overseas stars and two names come to my mind: Chamari Athapaththu, who was surprisingly not picked last year, maybe due to the coaching staff which most teams had.”

“She could have attracted a very decent bid, but her going unsold was a bit of a shock for me. I am expecting her to be picked, somebody who’s an all-rounder, knows Asian conditions well and can add great value to the team.”

“Second is Deandra Dottin, who was a part of Gujarat Giants. But then, there was stuff which happened around her fitness and she could not play. Now, she’s put her name for the auction and I expect a lot of action for her and Athapaththu.”

“Both of them are multi-dimensional players, something which is very unique to women’s cricket as compared to men’s cricket. This whole tournament is littered with great all-rounders and these two players will add a lot of value,” said Chopra, a JioCinema and Sports18 expert, in a virtual interaction.

For the second edition of the league’s auction, 165 players will go under the hammer, with a total of 30 slots available for the five franchises -– Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals, UP Warriorz, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Giants. Nine of the available slots are for overseas players.

Chopra also thinks all-rounders will be in huge demand at the auction.

“One of the most fantastic things of women’s cricket is that you get to see a lot of spin, even at the back end of an innings. You don’t get much of Indian fast-bowlers, so you look towards overseas options like Tara Norris, Kim Garth and Annabel Sutherland and attract a little more attention.”

“But spin all-rounders will also come into play like Alana King can tonk the ball, as well as Georgia Wareham, who was let go of by Gujarat. They can have a really decent day because they bring two skills to the table.”

From an Indian perspective, 21 slots are available and Chopra thinks leg-spin all-rounder Devika Vaidya along with left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap, who recently earned a call-up to the India T20I side for a series against England, will be in the sight of five franchises.

“Also, Devika Vaidya has been released by UP Warriorz -– she’s an all-rounder, bowls leg-spin, and bats left-handed. So, these are the two-three names I think will attract a lot of attention.”

“In terms of uncapped Indian players, someone like Mannat Kashyap or Uma Chetry can attract huge interest. You can also expect our U19 World Cup players to attract a lot of interest.”

Talking from the teams’ point of view, Chopra thinks Gujarat, who were at the bottom of the table last year, have a huge task of filling their ten slots with INR 5.95 crore at their disposal after releasing nearly half of their side.

“Gujarat’s auction strategy was flawed to begin with when we saw their team last time, it was there for everyone to see as their auction strategy was just not making sense. They made many big-ticket buys and spent very little money on buying Indian players. They were the only franchise that didn’t target any key Indian player. Now they have to change strategy and find their way in the smaller auction, which is not easy.”

For defending champions Mumbai and runners-up Delhi, Chopra thinks they need to get their back-up players as their first eleven has a settled look.

“Both Mumbai and Delhi don’t need much from the auction. They were the finalists last year and if you have a look at their team, they literally have everything.”

“Their main players are set and didn’t let go of any big name. They have their first eleven ready and don’t need to make major changes. In men’s and women’s cricket, if the teams are doing well, then there’s no need to make big changes.”

Regarding UP Warriorz, Chopra feels they need a quality Indian batting option to complete their heavyweight overseas contingent.

“UP Warriorz need an Indian batter, while their bowling looks fine. Their problem last time was that their batting revolved around their overseas players -– Alyssa Healy didn’t have a great time, while there was no idea of Deepti Sharma’s role and Grace Harris was in and out of the team.”

“Their bowling is not a problem and have firepower in overseas players, but they need to find more of Indian batters and the reality is they may not find much as main players aren’t released for a small auction.”

Coming to Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chopra opined they will be searching for good bowlers after having struggled in that department during WPL 2023.

“RCB literally have all players but needs to focus on their bowling department. Renuka Thakur didn’t have a great season last time, though she took 2/2 in the first over itself.”

“Whether it is men’s or women’s team, they have work to do in their bowling department. In the auction, they need to get their bowling right and for this reason, they let go of Megan Schutt and didn’t use Dane van Niekerk and Erin Burns. Batting looks okay, but they need to get their bowling right, which looked very thin last year.” (Agency)

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