T20 World Cup: Sobering conclusion to a heartening Indian sojourn

Despite a disappointing end in the final, Harmanpreet Kaur, W. V. Raman, and the touring entourage have every reason to hold their heads high.

The G was abuzz with a record turnout. While the Australians appeared to have saved their best for the last during the Women’s T20 World Cup final, their India counterparts seemed to have wilted under the big-match pressure.

Despite a disappointing loss on Sunday, captain Harmanpreet Kaur, head coach W. V. Raman, and the touring entourage have every reason to hold their heads high upon their return after a highly successful campaign. The final was lopsided in Australia’s favour, but the loss should not take away anything from India’s girls who exceeded expectations.

For starters, India was clubbed in the ‘Group of Death’, with Australia and New Zealand fancied to progress to the semifinals from its pool. To add to its woes, two of its seniormost batters — captain Harmanpreet and the stylish Smriti Mandhana — never really got going with the willow. Still, to maintain a clean slate and top the group was creditable, to say the least, for the girls.

Teenage prodigies

Had it not been for its top position in the league stage, Harman’s hurricanes would have packed their bags after its semifinal versus England was washed out on the basis of finishing the group higher. With their two seniors struggling for big runs, three teenage prodigies — Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh — came to the fore consistently, with all-rounder Deepti Sharma and finisher Veda Krishnamurthy making vital contributions in the latter half.

While Deepti was consistent with her off-breaks as well, India’s bowling burden was shouldered by the experienced duo of Shikha Pandey and Poonam Yadav. While Yadav was bamboozling the opposition batters with her combination of leg-breaks and googlies, pacer Pandey was at her best with the new ball as well as in the death overs and played the silent contributor’s role to perfection.

It may have failed to cross the final hurdle for the second consecutive World Cup, but the women’s team has proven in the last three weeks that Indian cricket has a bright future beyond the Men in Blue.