Of the three teams participating in the Women’s T20 Challenge, an exhibition tournament that fills up the IPL knockout window, only one has not won a title so far - Velocity.
Led so far by Mithali Raj and this season by Deepti Sharma, the girls in purple have boasted of formidable lineups but come short of winning the title twice now, once in 2019 and then in this season.
Going into the tournament, Velocity had the most balanced side on paper with power hitters, anchors, and handy bowlers all packed into the squad this time around. Its first game against Supernovas, which the side won by seven wickets, was a statement of intent about how strong a candidate the team was to finish with its name inscribed on the trophy.
However, things went south for them from the second game - getting the basics wrong and ceding the advantage to the opponents. Here’s a look at three things that Deepti Sharma and Co. didn’t quite get right which might have cost them a chance to claim their maiden title win.
1. DROPPED CATCHES: From the second game, Velocity’s fielding has been questionable at the very least. In the game against Trailblazers, Velocity dropped more than four catches - with Sabbhineni Meghana and Jemimah Rodrigues getting two lifelines each. The duo ultimately stitched together a 113-run partnership to help Trailblazers end with 190 in its innings. Sneh Rana was a repeat offender as was Ayabonga Khaka, who was clumsy in the field too. Khaka spoke about how this Indian tour had been a little hard on her and even tried to make amends in the final, but Rana ended up dropping Deandra Dottin in the summit clash too, when she was on 13. Dottin eventually scored a 44-ball 62. Simran Dil Bahadur has every reason to feel particularly aggrieved with this given that three catches were dropped off her bowling in that match against Trailblazers. Velocity lost that game but scored enough to make the final by net run rate. The qualification glossed over the cracks, but those very problems came back to haunt the side in the final.
2. NO WICKET PRESSURE: While Velocity, in its matches, managed to strike early in the powerplay, courtesy of some pace and precision from Kate Cross and slower deceptive spin from captain Deepti Sharma, the side struggled a fair bit to break partnerships. The dropped catches gave Supernovas, especially, room to settle in and see the nerves through. Khaka and Radha Yadav are proven wicket-takers - Yadav has the best figures in the history of this tournament, a fifer - but they could not trouble the batters as much. In the three games Velocity played, they chased in all three, presumably because Sharma found it easier to give her potent batting arsenal a tangible target. But the bowlers conceded 150 v Supernovas in its opener, 190 vs Trailblazers, and 165 in the final. Ahead of the final, only one no-ball had been bowled in this edition of the tournament. The final alone saw four no balls and four wides. The side got its lines wrong and could not contain the run flow, which in turn put its batters under pressure during the chase.
3. BATTING ORDER NOT QUITE SORTED: Fans wanted Kiran Navgire to bat up the order in Velocity’s first game, but coach Devika Palshikar had already straightened out the batting order - Shafali Verma would spearhead the batting order with Navgire, hopefully bookending an innings, and therefore slotted in the role of a finisher. However, the side also had Laura Wolvaardt for that role, as it goes for South Africa in international fixtures. That ended up making the middle order a little brittle. Shafali Verma opened with Nattakan Chantham, the Thailand player, who is a specialist batter for her country. Chantham could not get going, and the onus fell on Yastika Bhatia to support Verma. With Chantham up the order not working out in its first league game, Velocity opened with Bhatia in the game against Trailblazers, slotting Chantham in the last two spots of the order. Verma found assistance from Wolvaardt in that first fixture, making short work of a 150-run target. However, Wolvaardt paired with Navgire in the second game, with the 27-year-old shouldering the explosive batting responsibilities for that game, chasing 190 (Velocity fell short by 16 runs). In the final, with both Verma and Bhatia back in the hut and Navgire taking a hit to the head from a Dottin bouncer, one would have expected a calming influence to join her at the other end - either Wolvaardt or even Rana or Deepti. Instead, a nervous Chantham was sent. On her day, she can be a handy batter, but the two could not support each other as required, and the onus fell on Wolvaardt. Nerves meant Navgire ate up 13 balls while falling for a duck, deliveries and runs that could well have been the difference between the loss and a title victory.
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