Flying high after a year of unprecedented success, India’s women’s cricket team was handed a reality check on Wednesday after suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in the ongoing Twenty20 Asia Cup at Kuala Lumpur.
The Bangladeshi side pulled off a dramatic seven-wicket win with two balls to spare. This was Bangladesh’s second win in three games in the ongoing tournament and it wouldn’t be wrong to say there was an Indian hand in it.
The Asia Cup is Bangladesh’s first series under former India cricketer Anju Jain, who joined them as head coach earlier last month. Most of the Bangladesh support staff is also made up of Indians. Other than Jain, former India cricketer Devika Palshikar is the assistant coach, while Anuja Dalvi is their physiotherapist.
Before the Bangladesh assignment, Jain had been in charge of the Indian team. Her assignments have included the 2012 Women’s World T20 and the 2013 World Cup. She was part of the formative years of the Indian team, which recently grabbed headlines for their eye-catching performance at the Women’s World Cup.
The insight of Jain and Co seemed to have had an impact on proceedings on Wednesday. The Indian outfit included stars such as Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jhulan Goswami, players who have played under the former India wicketkeeper.
“Obviously, it’s been an advantage for us,” Jain told The Field after the victory. “We had our plans in place for each opposition player. We kept relaying the messages to them between overs. However, the coaching staff doesn’t execute the plans. It’s the players and credit to the girls who were not cowed down by the opposition and executed the plans perfectly.”
Jain has been a major contributor in the growth of Indian women’s cricket over the years. She has played eight Tests and 65 ODIs for the national team. She even led the side during the 2000 World Cup, where the team reached the semi-finals. Delhi-based Jain was the Vidarbha women’s cricket team coach before taking up the Bangladesh role.
As a coach, her stint with Bangladesh is her first assignment with an international side other than India. The results, though, have been positive from the get-go. Bangladesh came into the contest against India on back of a win over Pakistan. The tournament, though, started on a sour note as the side was bowled out for 63 before slumping to a six-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka.
The early setback, though, did not curtail the team’s confidence, who have now registered two back-to-back wins. “We had a chat with the girls prior to the India game, specifically cautioning them against being fazed by the big names in the opposition,” said Jain.
“The girls went into the side with immense confidence. They showed character. Twenty20 is an unpredictable format. If a side plays its cards right there is always an opportunity to cause an upset. We told the girls to be focused on their game and they responded beautifully,” she added.
Jain took over Bangladesh only in May and holds camps with the side in Sylhet. She admits the infrastructure is not up to international standards, but is confident of bridging the gap over time with help from a “supportive” Bangladesh Cricket Board. “We have a long road ahead of us,” said Jain. “We have to take the challenge one game at a time. The board is keen to make progress. So far, they agreed to all of our demands,” she added, chuckling.
The start has been great under the new regime, but Jain remains modest in her assessment. “Our immediate target is to make the final. We have some momentum now and could make deep inroads with games against Thailand and Malaysia,” she said.
Bangladesh have a packed schedule in the coming months, which includes a tour of Ireland and the World T20 qualifiers that follow. “I feel this team has the ability to pull off more such results. Our target now is to make it to the World T20 in November,” she added.
Jain’s reign has started with a bang and she’s hopeful it can go on in the same vein in the days to come. For now, she’s just glad her team beat India – in her first assignment.
“Not wearing the India colours did make it a bit awkward in the beginning,” she said. “The awkwardness, though, did not last long. We are staying in the same hotel so you do run into each other and interact. It’s been a great experience so far.”