Klinger seeks stability and continuity at the end of another dismal Giants campaign


Mooney hinted at being relieved of captaincy but Klinger advocated for exactly the opposite.

After a comprehensive seven-wicket defeat at the hands of finalists Delhi Capitals officially brought curtains on their WPL 2024 campaign, Gujarat Giants' captain Beth Mooney hinted at possibly being relieved of captaincy come next edition. Moments later, head coach Michael Klinger advocated for exactly the opposite; hoping for stability instead of wholesale changes going into the third season with the squad not having to rebuild from scratch yet again.

"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," Klinger said in response to question on the homework they'd put in in the off-season to come back stronger in 2025. "You look at some of the other teams that kept the bulk of their squad together and it's only beneficial going forward. So I certainly wouldn't expect there to be as big a turnover as it was last year. We've got to sit down and go through this. We haven't done that as yet [since] there's a fair bit of time to go for that," he added.

The Giants have had a second successive underwhelming season in WPL, finishing with two wins each time in their eight outings and remained rooted to the bottom of the five-team points table. They rang in a host of changes ahead of the second edition, releasing 10 of their squad of 18, followed by the last-minute changing of the backroom staff headlined by the eleventh-hour announcement of the signing of Klinger as their new head coach, replacing former Australia vice-captain Rachael Haynes.

Klinger therefore had no say in auction strategy and picks, meaning he dived into his first year at coaching in WPL with a squad already finalised for him. The Australian, who has previously had coaching stints in both the BBL and the WBBL, said the franchise will look at the domestic talent pool closely in preparation for the next auction in order to plug the existing gaps.

"There will be time to look at some domestic cricket before the next auction as well so we'll see some of our own players and how they're going in domestic cricket, and see some other players. We will also leave no stone unturned, I'm sure, as an organisation and as a franchise to make sure that we're looking all around India for talent and good performances in particular. Even someone like Bharti [Fulmali] tonight, she's had a pretty good domestic season and to come out and do what she did - she was a replacement but she's put her best foot forward now to stay with us going forward as well."

Besides Fulmali, who was roped in as injured Harleen Deol replacement midway through the tournament, Klinger has been effusive in praise for some of the uncapped Indians in the Giants roster, repeatedly crediting left-arm spinner Tanuja Kanwer for her consistency and hailing 16-year-old pacer Shabnam Shakil as a future superstar. Kanwer finished the league stages of WPL 2024 as the joint second-highest wicket-taker - and Giants' best overall - with 10 scalps in eight innings at an economy of 7.13, while teenaged Shakil's victim list begins with Nat Sciver-Brunt, Alyssa Healy and Chamari Athapaththu in the top-three spots.

Despite another fifth-place finish to their season, Klinger said unearthing these promising talents were some of the positives of the otherwise disappointing campaign.

"In terms of small improvements I think there's certainly been that since last year. We've unearthed some small players who I think they're going to be a big part of Gujarat Giants' future. Tanuja has been unbelievable the whole tournament, she's been our most consistent player overall. Shabnam, to unearth a talent that I think is fantastic. So that's going to hold us in good stead.

"There's been a little bit of an over reliance on our betting. When they did well, we've played well. Didn't help us in injury early in the tournament. So there's a few things that we can take out of it going into next year... a couple of local players who have shown little bits and pieces, if they can do that more consistently, going forward we would be stronger next year."

Giants' campaign received setbacks even before the tournament began, with their headline-making INR 2 crore buy Kashvee Gautam sidelined due to injury. The pace department suffered another blow with Australian left-arm pacer Lauren Cheatle withdrawing. Win-less after their first four games, GG lost star allrounder Harleen Deol to knee injury, making way for Fulmali's late entry in WPL. The Vidarbha batter wrapped up with a fighting 36-ball 42 in the last fixture to propel the side to a respectable 126/9 against DC, earning praise from the head coach.

However, of those who got consistent chances in the XI, Giants were left high and dry with the disappointing returns of two of their most-expensive buys, the Australian duo of Ash Gardner and Phoebe Litchfield.

The experienced Gardner returned only seven wickets in eight innings at an economy of 7.75 which is a far-cry from her career economy rate of 6.7 after 85 international caps. Her performances were underwhelming with the bat too as she aggregated only 120 runs in eight outings, with a best hand of 40 and a strike-rate of 111. Meanwhile, Litchfield, who also got an eight-figure pay-cheque for her maiden WPL stint, tallied only 108 runs at a strike-rate just over run-a-ball. Just over a couple of months ago, the left-handed batter had enjoyed great success in the ODI format in India, totalling 260 runs in three innings including her second century in the format.

Klinger, however, came out in support of both the star players - backing Litchfield to turn it around in no time and backing Gardner's multi-utility skillset despite middling numbers this season.

"She's an extremely hard worker. There's no doubt over her efforts and the attitude she brings into every game," Klinger said of the 20-year-old Litchfield. "It just hasn't clicked for her, and she's maybe struggling to find the answer because not so long ago in India, for Australia, she was unbelievable and performing really well. But she's only 20 years old, she's got to come back, bigger and stronger. Whatever cricket she plays, whether it's back here in WPL next year, whether it's playing for Australia in a week in Bangladesh, I've no doubt she'll come good.

"Sometimes when you're some bit out of nick, that first risk or the second risk that you take doesn't quite come off and then that's what's happened this tournament. Someone this young will learn from that and learn to adapt.

"It's hard in these tournaments where we have game after game, and there's not just enough time to practice certain things and to work on something. It just didn't work out for her in this tournament and that's okay. She's young. She's got a 10-plus year career ahead of her and she'll play WPL down the track next year and beyond and probably be Player of the Tournament and I wouldn't be surprised. I have full faith in her coming back stronger next year," Klinger noted.

On Gardner, Klinger said: "I actually think she had a pretty good season. I haven't looked at her exact stats but you have got to remember she's our go-to person with everything.

"Whether it's coming in at the right time to attack with the bat, whether it's bowling difficult overs - she bowls in powerplay when the batters are going big, we bring her on and she bowls in death overs for us.

"Statistics wise I actually haven't looked, so maybe you could argue that. But, she's one of our most experienced players, one of our fittest players, strongest players, bowls four overs every game, key batter through the middle and one of our better fielders. You could argue that she could have wanted to do slightly better but I've got no issues."

Klinger even saw Gardner, the most expensive Giant at INR 3.2 crore, as the team's "no. 1 off-spinner" and had no qualms benching designated vice-captain Sneh Rana, also an offspinning allrounder, for the last two games in favour of match-ups. Klinger said the tactical call was made, and persisted with, given that their last couple of fixtures - when they still had an outside chance of qualifying for the Eliminator - were against right-heavy batting line-ups.

"Our no. one offspinner is Ash Gardner. It was just purely about match-ups. We didn't feel the last two games that we needed eight overs of off-spin against predominantly right-handed players. Stats show that they were pretty strong against ff-spin, as you saw tonight with Shafali [Verma] against Ash. It was very similar last game.