Current Affairs

Thus far and no further, Indian Women Cricket team lose nerves, Championship

Abhaya Vaajpayee

There was many a slip – seven to be exact – between the (World) cup and the lip, or the victory lap. A match that was within their grasp eluded the Indian women cricket team in the final, earlier in July. England women, in contrast, held on to their nerves and won a thrilling match.

Earlier the Indian bowlers, spearheaded by the stalwart Jhulan Goswami shot out England for just 228 runs – not a formidable total by any standard. With Indians, despite losing the opener Mandhana, went on to score 191 for the loss of only two more wickets (Harmanpreet Kaur contributing a sound 51 and opener Punam Raut 86), the score was still at a winnable juncture. The run rate was fine and the 7 more players were still expected to contribute toward the victory target.

It was not to be. They were caving under pressure and began a procession from, and to, the pavilion leaving a frustrated Captain Mithali Raj and those who contributed a lot, to rue the chance that may be extremely difficult to get again. 

One cannot imagine that the Indian women put up an incredible performance in beating strong team such as South Africa and defeated the World Champion Australia with a comfortable margin. However, when they were within reach they lost their nerves and lost the final against England by just 9 runs – their last 7 wickets falling in a heap for 28 runs.

India, and the Indian Prime Minister, felicitated Indian women for their remarkable performance. Yes, they did wonderfully well to reach the Final. But there was no reason for them to capitulate in the decider but for some unnecessary run-outs (there were at least three, including of the Captain Mithali Raj – though for no fault of hers) and some insipid, clueless and nervous play with mistimed shots and cross batting efforts that failed.  They were 191 for 3 when the Indian team lost all the remaining 7 wickets for just 28 runs and fell short by 9 runs for a historic win.

This was a batting collapse of the worst order after so near and yet so far.

It was an excellent performance by India’s pacer and experienced bowler  Jhulan Goswami taking 3 wickets earlier in the England innings that restricted them to 228 for seven, yet disheartening that India still lost. 

Opener Punam Raut (86 - just 14 short for her second century of the tournament) and semifinal star Harmanpreet Kaur (51) had edged India closer to victory. Kaur was the hero in India’s big win over Australia with 171 not out. However, when Kaur departed hush fell on the ground though still hopes were not lost. But soon after, wickets started falling quickly and the English bowler Anya Shrubsole engineered the collapse getting six wickets for only 46 runs and India were all out for 219 runs, short by nine.

Twelve years back India had lost to Australia after reaching the final for the first time. This time India had taken revenge in beating Australia in the semifinals.

That the victory over England in the final was possible was evident when at one stage India just needed 38 from 43 balls, but the missing things were real focus and strong nerves. 

[The consolation is that Indian skipper Mithali Raj was selected as ICC Captain of the world women’s team and Harmanpreet Kaur and Punam Raut as players in the eleven.]

This year was heartbreak for India as earlier the strong Indian men’s team lost to arch rival Pakistan in World Cup Final, in England. It was a stunning loss as India, though not starting as favorites, had reached the final. Pakistan played a spirited game and Indian players, probably still feeling the after effects of the captain-coach tiff, did not put their heart in the game.

That unexpected defeat gave rise to speculations about match-fixing though none at any level took that possibility seriously to think about it and investigate. The BCCI and other bigwigs in Indian cricket got busy with yet another round of tour – to Sri Lanka within weeks after the defeat at Lords to play three Tests, five ODIs and one T20.

That keeps the players busy and the BCCI happy with money kept coming.

The unhappy story of captain-coach tiff and India’s defeat against Pakistan in World Cup have not been discussed quite extensively. I hope these might be analyzed later when Cricket in India and visits to other countries will take a break for some time.