Caught short

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Nov 2018 10:56:06

ONE of the most endearing images from the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup (50-over) was Indian captain Mithali Raj engrossed in a book near the ropes while waiting for her turn to bat. The romanticism in that image was delightful. Raj soon translated her unflustered calmness into a record-making half-century in that game against England. A year later, as she sat on the bench (dropped on the pretext of keeping a certain combination) and saw the Indian women’s team crashing out of the World Twenty20, the blankness on her face was poignant. The two images vividly exhibited the irony of Indian women’s journey in international cricket. They have set off but there is still a long way to go before the Women in Blue call themselves a formidable force.

India’s campaign in the World T20 can best be described as a sparkle that flattered a lot but deceived too soon. Two ICC events have seen the Indian women faltering at the final hurdle. Last year’s narrow loss to England robbed them of a chance to become world champions and Friday’s capitulation against the same opponents denied them a shot at T20 glory. Despite talent and star players, the Indian team is still a work in progress.

One loss cannot make them a bad team but a few facile wins in group stages also do not make them a top opponent. Caught in the vortex of bad and the best India have been found short of the crease. It is a grind that tests every sporting team. It is an examination of character and will. Under Harmanpreet Kaur’s bold leadership, India have shown tremendous fighting spirit but it was again a show of sporadic brilliance from a few individuals. Harmanpreet, Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj and Radha Yadav played their part but failed to get equal support from others in the team. The collapse against England was perfect example of what went wrong in face of pressure.

India had had their moments to leave a mighty impression. Kaur’s century in the first game, Mandhana’s strokeplay and Yadav’s spell made for a compelling viewing. Those moments have truly helped women’s cricket occupy a serious place in cricket lovers’ minds. Rising television viewership of India’s games and players trending on social portals is a happy sign for women’s cricket. A few silverwares will be of great help to firmly establish them in our sporting ecosystem. But to achieve that, Kaur and Co can safely turn to classicism that Raj and her ilk have in abundance.