One could look at it in a couple of ways. On the one hand, the Tri-Series involving India, South Africa and West Indies in East London was just a preparatory affair before the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup starting shortly. Three teams who got to play an international series in the host country for the event. Irrespective of results, it was a good chance to fine-tune. But on the other hand, the Indian women’s cricket team struggled to win another tournament (loosely speaking) final.

It’s been a bugbear for this team in recent years, with last year’s Asia Cup an exception. World Cup finals and Commonwealth Games gold medal matches have come and gone, and the theme has largely been an inability to step up under high pressure.

While the pressure certainly wasn’t (and shouldn’t have been) high in the Tri-Series final on Thursday against the Sune Luus-led South Africa, the Indian batting once again couldn’t step up in a match of some importance.

But this series wasn’t entirely about the end result, so Harmanpreet Kaur and Co must try and pick out areas to improve and build on positives ahead of the tournament.

Here’s a look at some of the takeaways:

India's top run-getters in Tri-Series

Player Inns Runs HS Ave SR 4s 6s
H Kaur 3 109 56* 109.00 136.25 14 0
S Mandhana 5 86 74* 28.66 111.68 12 1
H Deol 4 79 46 19.75 85.86 8 0
J Rodrigues 4 57 42* 28.50 89.06 8 0
Y Bhatia 2 53 35 26.50 92.98 6 1
D Sharma 2 49 33 49.00 132.43 2 1

India's top wicket-takers in Tri-Series

Player Inns Overs Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR
D Sharma 4 16.0 89 9 3/11 9.88 5.56 10.6
R Gayakwad 4 15.0 61 4 1/9 15.25 4.06 22.5
S Rana 2 7.0 33 3 2/21 11.00 4.71 14.0
R Yadav 2 7.0 27 2 1/10 13.50 3.85 21.0
P Vastrakar 2 6.0 37 2 2/19 18.50 6.16 18.0
D Vaidya 4 7.0 58 2 2/19 29.00 8.28 21.0

Deepti Sharma has the ball on a string

One of undoubted positives from the series is the continued good bowling form of Deepti Sharma. The player of the series had the ball on a string, as the good old cricket adage for spinners goes. The flight and turn on helpful wickets had batters struggling to pick her, with Sharma repeatedly drawing batters forward but deceiving them on length and turning the ball into them. Quite a few wickets she picked were of this nature, including the brilliant Laura Wolvaardt twice.

In the not-so-distant past, India had quite a few spinning options without perhaps having an undroppable one. Sharma is now firmly the best of the lot. She later credited the work she put in during bowling sessions.

“Harry di (Harmanpreet Kaur) also told me that I should just pick my spot and keep bowling according to the situation and I think we produced a good bowling effort and bowled according to the plan,” Sharma said at the post-final press conference.

“I had worked with single wicket with different balls like heavy ball, light ball. It was a turning wicket, so I got a lot of help. I bowled to my strength,” Sharma said. “In the powerplay, I go for breakthroughs and it helped the team. Whatever sessions that I did before the World Cup has helped me in my bowling.”

Over-dependence on Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur

News flash. Team India is still dependent on two star batters to deliver. When you have players of the quality of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, of course you are going to depend on them to do the bulk of run-scoring. But the converse of it is a problem for India. On days the two of them didn’t get going, India struggled, as they did in the final. Jemimah Rodrigues, who was asked to open in three innings, had one good outing. Harleen Deol’s innings in the final, in all honesty, did more damage than good as after (understandably) taking time to settle in on a tough pitch, she didn’t make the most of it. Sharma played some good cameos but overall, the team still needs one of their main two to step up in a big match.

While Mandhana started the series well, Harmanpreet looked in good touch for most of the Tri-Series, striking at a superb 136.25. She held her left-shoulder a few times in the final, and India will hope it is nothing serious because she is far too important in that middle order for the side.

The caveat for India’s batting performances in this series is the nature of the pitches and there is a chance that the World Cup tracks could play out better for batters. That being said, there is a problem of consistency and (sometimes) intent in the Indian batting unit as we have seen from the Australia series to now, that can only be addressed by the individual batters stepping up to the challenge.

Amanjot Kaur, one for the future

The 23-year-old played just a couple of matches, early on when the Indian team didn’t have a clean bill of health but the all-rounder from Chandigarh passed what one could call the eye test. Her innings of 41 in the first match against South Africa, with the Indian team struggling after the loss of early wickets, was one that began nervously but turned out to be match-winning. The shots through the off-side were the highlight and the intent to score quick runs stood out. Her medium-pace bowling too appears useful as she got the ball to skid along at a decent pace. An all-rounder to keep an eye on, and worth investing in.


Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh can still walk into the XI

One of the curiosities of India’s decision to field both Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh for the ICC Under 19 Women’s T20 World Cup was the fact that they were both going to miss the entirety of this Tri-Series. Already quite well established in the senior set-up, Verma and Ghosh were tasked with leading India’s charge in the inaugural edition – one they managed to do, as they became World Champions. But the downside to that was two members of the first XI missing a preparatory series for, without doubt, a bigger prize.

Now, had things gone a bit differently – say, India had a opening batter come in and blow the bowlers away or a middle-order batter slog sweeping her way to big scores in quick time – then perhaps these youngsters could have been left wondering if their place in the XI would be safe on their return. As it turned out, India still need a swashbuckling opening batter who can provide quick starts and they dearly need a middle order batter who can clear the boundary ropes in the back-end of the innings.

It’s fair to say, Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh have their roles in this set-up that are quite irreplaceable at the moment.