Despite falling short by just 9 runs to lose World Cup to England, Indian Women’s cricket team’s journey from World Cup qualifier to final of biggest stage of the game is not less than any dramatic movie.
Forty third over, fifth ball, Anya Shrubsole to set opener Poonam Raut, length ball pitched inside and Raut misjudged it completely. Umpire raised his finger and Raut with her partner Veda Krishnamurthy took more than 15 seconds and she had no option but to leave crease. India now 4 down for 191, 38 needed from 43 balls with 6 wickets in hand.
Next 35 balls, 28 runs, 6 wickets and India gone.
If you analyze the India’s lost, there are multiple variants someone can find. Mithali Raj’s run out, Veda’s needless short, Smriti Mandhana’s yet another duck and so many. But was that the reason India lose the final? For me it’s big NO. After nearly 12 years, India professed to World Cup final and it was only second time in 11 editions though. On other hand, England who was favorite to win this tournament played fearless last ten overs and experience pays for them.
Base from Women’s World Cup Qualifier
No doubt, it was India’s final till 43rd over. But table turns from there for England was something Indian team won’t want to recall in their future. India’s appearance in the final was not an easy entry as team appeared in the Women’s World Cup qualifier in Sri Lanka in February and emerged as winner winning all 8 games including 4 group stage games, 3 super six games and last ball finish in the final against South Africa in which 2 games were minor game.
India’s skipper Mithali Raj, the highest run scorer in Women’s ODIs who has been playing the game since 1999, with 19 years old Deepti Sharma were top scorers in that tournament. Deepti who scored 253 runs in six games with three fifty-plus score and with an average of more than 50 which is said to be the best Women’s cricket. While her skipper too scored three fifty-plus knocks scoring 207 runs with the same number of average.
The bowling performance by Indian women in that tournament was phenomenal. 13 wickets in five games by Ekta Bisht and 11 wickets in six games Shikha Pandey tells you how good they were in bowling department. Bisth’s five-for 8 was the top performance for India and economy throughout the tournament was just 2.28. Imagine how good they were in that tournament with these numbers.
India who was runner up of the 2005 Women’s World Cup could not make through the direct qualification for this World Cup. During 2014 to 2016 in the ICC Women’s Championship, they were not up to the mark. Played seven series against top teams winning just three and if you check the opponent, they were Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies. Though West Indies was into the top four at the end of the Championship period, India suffered to go down for the fifth place caused to go through qualifier process.
The Final Performance
Remarkable performance in World Cup Qualifier was not just indication for big stage, it was the signal from women in blue to go beyond that performance which they did fabulously throughout the tournament. 10-1 record in 2017 before making into the World Cup followed by four consecutive victories to kick off at the center stage was the start they were desperately waiting for.
It was complete team effort by girls with everyone’s contribution at the right pays off. After two impressive innings by Smriti Mandhana she lost her temperament completely in following matches. But Mithali’s cool and composer innings including hundred against New Zealand in the knock out game was the proof of that team effort. Also Harmanpreet Kaur’s vital inning in the semifinal against Australia kept her and team on higher note.
In the bowling department, spin duo Deepti Sharma (12 wickets) and Poonam Yadav (11 wickets) took the responsibility and well supported by highest wicket taker in Women’s ODIs Jhoolan Goswami (10 wickets). Rajeshwari Gayakwad was clinical against New Zealand where she wrote her career best figure of 5 for 15.
Though India lost momentum in the final after 43rd over, but their performance throughout the tour was something different they could cherish in their life for sure. At the end of the tournament, India winning 16 out of 20 matches in this year will tell you how good they are prepared for the upcoming season. And for the record, it is their best ever performance in a calendar year in their history.