All’s well that ends well, and it has ended very well for the Indian women’s cricket team. Making their West Indian counterparts chase a difficult target of 200 on Wednesday in Vijayawada, challenging them at every aspect whether it was bowling, fielding, and batting, and finally beating them by 15 runs, Mithali Raj’s team had actually converted this game into one of nerves at Mulapadu.
With this win, India moved up to 21 points on the International Cricket Council Women’s Championship standings, one point shy of fourth-placed West Indies at 22.
What that means is that the answer to who will become the fourth team to qualify for the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England will have to be decided on the basis of what happens to the stalled India-Pakistan series and how the points from that series are shared. To qualify for the World Cup, the lowest-ranked four teams will have to fight it out in a qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka in February 2017. After this win, India have put themselves in the driver’s seat.
Confidence doesn’t lead to success
Earlier in the morning, the teams were up and ready early. As they arrived at the Mulapadu stadium at around 8.30 am, the dew drops on the trimmed grass tops were still visible. The crisp sunny morning was rather sleepy, but there was a twang in the way the West Indies players moved. They had clearly transformed overnight and looked a lot more confident to fight it out.
Word had spread about the game at this rural neighbourhood just outside Vijayawada-Amaravati, the present capital of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh. While the players in both teams warmed up and stretched their muscles, people trickled in – children finding something better to do than picking up stones, teens with their bicycles, women on their way to work who came to stadium to catch a breath, men playing truant from their day jobs, and a few city-dwelling sports enthusiasts who wanted to make the most of an international cricket match.
Their easy 2-0 lead in the series had taken the stress off India. They were playing to win, nevertheless, in order to collect as many points as possible to book their berth at the World Cup.
Why India needed a whitewash
With Pakistan (seventh) and South Africa (sixth) dangling on their respective strings of faith and eighth-placed Sri Lanka out of the running, it should not be hard for the West Indies to reserve a berth in the World Cup in June, despite this series loss. However, this is a troubled team with low morale, thanks to three consecutive losses. Coach Vasbert Drakes had already spoken with concern about his batters’ inability of not being able to stick to the game plan. In this series, the West Indies batting line-up crumbled against India’s surprise find, Deepti Sharma who managed to fit in a lot of dot balls in her spells.
Stefanie Taylor, the West Indies captain, had earlier mentioned that internalisation of Twenty20 strategies could be obstructing her team’s mindset. The past two days, therefore, had been of counselling, motivating, and looking at the bigger picture for goal setting.
In the morning, a cheerful Merissa Aguilleira had waved jovially as West Indies won the toss and chose to bowl. The decision to bowl was possibly a reaction to the events of the last two matches where West Indies had been bowled out cheaply after batting first.
Within 20 minutes of the start, West Indies’ new found confidence had borne fruit. India’s Smriti Mandhana was dismissed for only four after being caught by captain Taylor with Deandra Dottin getting her first wicket in the match. However, Mithali Raj combined with Deepti Sharma to provide stability to the total as India finished on 199/6. Veda Krishnamurthy, in particular, lit up the Indian innings with a breezy 71 runs off 79 balls.
As an aside, for those who expected a poor audience at the Mulapadu stadium, the crowd had proved them wrong. They erupted as the boundaries rang out, cheered the wickets and were generously inclined towards the West Indies players as well. In that regard, they were served well as Mithali Raj and her team bowled West Indies out for 184, thus completing a fabulous 3-0 whitewash.