Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Jul 2017 12:33:46

BY ANY standard, the failure of Indian Women’s cricket team to win the World Cup final match against England can be termed as unfortunate. The Indian ladies allowed a near-sure victory to slip from their grip and met with defeat that should have actually been the lot of their rivals. The batting collapse which the Indians suffered did not come from truly good bowling by the England bowlers, but from inept batting and a diffident attitude when what was needed was a stern and steely resolve to finish the task in a sweep and flourish. But the Indian ladies did not show that steel in the nerves, something which they had done in the early stages of the tournament. What happened in the dying moments of the final match was quite uncharacteristic -- an unexpected collapse of India’s middle and lower order batting after a truly promising start. Even though it is an anathema in sport to pass the buck to Lady Luck, it must be said as regards this match that a severe misfortune hit the team at a wrong time.

The team’s run up to the final was a matter of sheer grit and determination and excellent cricket tempered by right attitude. Captain Mithali Raj led the team from the front and set newer standards in leadership. Indian ladies achieved great and smart individual and collective statistics with the bat and the ball. On most occasions, barring a few exceptions, their fielding, too, was of a high order, so much so that the Indian squad came to be known as a giant-slaying team during the World Cup tournament. And then came the unfortunate anti-climax -- of a defeat that the team hardly deserved.

In sharp contrast, the English ladies did a smart job. They knew their limitation of a moderate total. They also realised that the Indians had all the capacity to sail through. Yet, the final was a great demonstration of a match between tenacity (of the English players) and capacity (of Indian players). Finally, what won was tenacity, as Indian tail-enders panicked where there was no need to do so. They chased non-existent runs. They hit overhead shots when patiently-delivered ground shots would have served the purpose perfectly. And to make matters worse, the Indian tail-enders argued with each other out in the middle when the match could be theirs with just a little concentration.

That was bad cricket, for cricket is not just batting or bowling or fielding; it is also a game that is played more in mind and less in matter. It is this area that the Indian ladies could not rise to the occasion in the final match. In the semi-final match against Australia, the Indian team was faced with a similar situation in reverse, having to restrict the rivals in batting. They held their nerve, kept up their verve, and ensured that the rival batsmen ended tamely. Unfortunately, they faced a similar fate in the finals, with the English ladies pushing the hardest to ensure their victory.

Nevertheless, this tournament helped India establish new credentials for itself in women’s cricket. It emerged as a force to reckon with, a team to tackle, a name with a halo. Mithali Raj also proved herself as a Captain and would be remembered as a player of exceptional merit and leader with substance. Players like Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Jhulan Goswami, Punam Raut, Sushma Verma became names that matter now in women’s cricket. This is also a major gain upon which the Indian women’s team can build its future fortune.
Of course, women’s cricket has to go a long distance before it captures popular fancy as men’s cricket has done. Despite that, it is obvious that with passage of time, women’s cricket will keep gaining in popularity, and the Indian team will continue to earn more respect for itself. For the present, however, the Indian ladies will have to contend with an avoidable defeat.