Hosts West Indies looked a shadow of the team that chased down a record target against Australia to win the T20 World Cup in 2016 after a humbling 0-5 whitewash against India. The Windies were missing a few key players as captain Stafanie Taylor was out injured while the middle-order suffered in the absence of Deandra Dottin. However, that will do injustice to a clinical Indian side.
The visitors were seldom put in difficult situations but that only forms part of the story. India never allowed momentum to slip. The rain-hit fourth match saw Harmanpreet Kaur’s side defend a score of 50 in nine overs. With the T20 World Cup in Australia edging closer, the batting order was bolstered by 15-year-old opener Shafali Verma’s Player of the Series performances. Two other teenagers – Jemimah Rodrigues and Radha Yadav – delivered consistent performances.
Senior batter Veda Krishnamurthy made a notable comeback after a stop-start 18 months that has seen her lose her place. Deepti Sharma did her reputation no harm, earning a combined tally of 13 wickets from the tour and regularly displaying a powerplay masterclass with the ball. Smriti Mandhana, only playing a supporting role after returning from injury, impressed with her captaincy in the final match of the series.
Indefatigable Radha Yadav
Radha Yadav had a memorable series, which resulted in her rising to second in the ICC T20I bowlers’ rankings. With wickets in every game, the left-arm spinner finished with a staggering average of 7.71 at a measly economy rate of 3.00. In all the five games, the 19-year-old helped her side consolidate after the powerplay. The third match saw Radha finish with astonishing figures of 4-2-6-2.
Varying her pace, beating batters with her flight, and using the arm ball judiciously, Radha even outshone senior spinner Poonam Yadav. She is not afraid to toss the ball up, luring batters to take her on and brings a stumping opportunity into play.
The Mumbai tweaker is indispensable for India in the shortest format now. It would have not been surprising had Radha, instead of Shafali, been adjudged the best player of the series.
Shafali Verma’s rise
No longer will the burden of upping the ante during the powerplay overs be Mandhana’s as India have a new star on the block. Gifted with excellent hand-eye coordination and brute strength that belies her age, Verma was a revelation in the first two games, scoring two brutal fifties in the space of 24 hours.
In both games, Mandhana was happy to take a backseat and let her younger partner use the long handle. However, Verma couldn’t get to double figures in the last three games, which is but a small blip. The management also deserves praise for persisting with the Rohtak-born opener after an underwhelming start to her career.
In the last T20 World Cup, which was held in the Caribbean, India toyed with multiple options at the top to cash in on the field restrictions. They now have a batter who thrives on muscling the ball over the top. With time Verma should be more calculative with her shot selection, but at the moment, it is imperative that India give her a free run.
Middle order – hits and misses
It is anybody’s guess how India’s lower middle-order will perform in a pressure situation; they came a cropper during their sole defeat of the tour. But, India’s top-order continued to blossom. With Harmanpreet Kaur, the side was crying out for some more experience and bite and in came Veda’s redemption.
After playing a cameo in the first game, the 27-year-old showed her class in the series finale with a mature half-century. India were in trouble after losing their openers early and the manner in which Rodrigues and Veda steadied the ship would have been heartening to see for the management. Veda led the charge, pinching ones and twos early on before deciding to cut loose.
The Bengaluru-based batter has been rewarded for her efforts and will lead India A in Australia next month. That being said, the likes of Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol and wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia barely got a look-in with the bat.
With the slow wickets in the West Indies being a spinner’s paradise, pacers from either side hardly played a role. Senior pacer Shikha Pandey bowled with good control in the games she played in, and was consistent in the ODI games. Pooja Vastrakar was handy in the limited role she played in the series too but Mansi Joshi went wicketless, which is a concern going into Australia. Another quick, Arundhati Reddy, merely watched from the sidelines.
After Jhulan Goswami bid adieu in T20Is, India’s pace bowling arsenal remains a work in progress. The upcoming tour Down Under will be crucial for the young Indian pacers having hardly been tested against the Windies. While the spin attack showed more depth than ever before, India’s pace attack remains a bit of a worry.
If the final match of the series was anything to go by, Mandhana showed great potential as a captain. Surely, the selectors took note of it? The 23-year-old missed out with the bat, lured into a mistimed loft by her opposite number Anisa Mohammed.
Where Mandhana scored was her foresight in cutting out scoring angles. The mid-off was brought up while the spinners bowled to the right handers. When big hits were needed, the batters were forced onto the back-foot. With sweepers protecting the fence on both sides of the wicket, they had to contend with singles alone.
The Windies batters never got a chance to settle down with Mandhana frequently rotating her bowlers. It helped that the Indian slow bowlers displayed extraordinary discipline and West Indies’s morale slipped with every defeat.
Apart from being one of the best batters in the world, she has a shrewd captain in her. India’s future is bright.