Indian women’s spirited show and the unsporting Aussies

Despite the loss in the final, the performance of the Indian women’s team has made everybody sit up and take notice. In almost every match there has been some player or the other who has put her hand up and taken the team home.

India players stand dejected after receiving their runners-up medals following their loss to England in the ICC Women’s World Cup final.   -  AP

There are some great old sayings like ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’, ‘man proposes but God disposes’. These apply to sport very well and in the current situation to women’s cricket. As the teams qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s World Cup, the talk in England was about an England-Australia final. It is understandable to an extent, since just like the Indian sub-continent salivates over an India v Pakistan game, so also in England and Australia it is clashes between the two countries that excite the followers most. Way back in 1983, everybody in England was expecting an England v West Indies final and when India got through, by beating England, many Englishmen who had bought tickets for the final just sold them and went away somewhere else for a holiday. England returned the favour by spoiling India’s party, beating them in the semi-finals of the next edition of the World Cup in 1987, when everybody in the sub-continent was talking about an Indo-Pak final. Australia did the same to Pakistan and so instead of the old rivals from the sub-continent battling it out at the Eden Gardens it was the oldest rivals in cricket that clashed for the title and the Reliance Cup.

So when India’s women reached the final, beating the Australian women, the English were disappointed. In the summit clash, the Indians put up a spirited display, with Poonam Raut scoring a valiant 86. On course for a memorable victory, the team faltered, losing its last seven wickets for 28 runs and handing England a nine-run win and the world title.

However, despite the loss, the performance of the Indian women’s team has made everybody sit up and take notice. Every match, apart from the final, there has been some player or the other who has put her hand up and taken the team home.

Harmanpreet Kaur’s demolition of the Australian women’s team was inspiring as she played fearlessly and with an awareness of the situation that was stupendous. In a rain-reduced game of 42 overs, the Indian team’s total at the 30-over mark was not enough and Harmanpreet then decided to take things into her own hand, and played one of the greatest, if not the greatest, innings in women’s cricket. Charlotte Edwards, who has captained England and is just retired, called it the greatest innings she has seen and that is high praise indeed.

What was disappointing, though not altogether unexpected, was the behaviour of the losing team. Firstly nobody applauded Harmanpreet’s innings, and while that is understandable to an extent — in modern day cricket appreciating an opponent’s innings is considered a weakness — not allowing her to go off the field first at the end of the Indian innings is nothing short of shameful. Here again it is understandable if the opening batsmen run-off earlier, especially if they have only ten minutes to get ready for their batting. But in this case there was a bigger interval, so that also is not an excuse to have just walked off, without acknowledging one of the most outstanding innings in women’s cricket. Worse still, when the match ended the handshakes were so lukewarm with the gaze away from the person whose hand was being shaken that it would have been better not to have even gone through that ritual at all. Winning with humility and showing grace when one has lost are the hallmarks of true champions, but that is something that you will rarely find in an Australian team. This business of being macho and showing no grace to the opposition has been taken way too far by the Australians. Yes by all means be hard, but when the game is over be brave enough to accept that someone else was better on the day.

If grace was to be seen, then Wimbledon was the place to be, when Roger Federer won the men’s singles title for a record eighth time. After winning, he spoke warmly of his opponent. He has won both the majors in which he has participated this year, and with Venus Williams also playing superlative tennis till the loss in the final, both these supreme athletes have shown that in their mid-thirties they can still produce the magic that has made them such great players.

Age is just a number as long as the desire and pride in performance is still there. So just leave MSD alone, will you?

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