A humbling defeat in the final or an unbeaten run to a first-ever final on the back of a collective team effort, there are two ways of looking at the Indian team’s runner-up trophy at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
That this young team with an average age of under 23 reached the final without significant contributions from the seniors should be an encouraging sign, but the fact that not one player stood out at the big stage consistently – barring Shafali Verma – is a cause for concern.
But no matter if you look at it as a positive step forward or a failure to handle pressure on the big stage, this was a crucial experience for India and should bode well for the future.
Here’s our report card for the Indian team:
Shafali Verma – 8/10
163 runs at an average of 32.60
The shining light of India’s campaign and the find of the tournament, the 16-year-old made teams and fans sit up and take notice from the very first ball with her confident, big-hitting display.
The opener was the top run-scorer for India and her 163 runs came at a terrific strike rate of 158.25, with two back-to-back Player of the Match awards against Bangladesh and New Zealand. It says something when the World Cup debutante with 14 matches under her belt comfortably outscored the best and most experiences batters in the team.
Her fearless cricket was the biggest positive from India’s campaign and her fearsome ball-striking set the tone for the first three wins. Her early failure in the final was the only blip, but despite that she is India’s top performer of the tournament.
Poonam Yadav – 8/10
10 wickets at an average of 11.90
The only Indian player to make it the top 11 in the ICC team of the tournament, the leg-spinner started the World Cup with a literal bang. Her magical spell of 4/19 to hand eventual champions Australia their only loss threw open the tournament at the very beginning.
With 10 wickets, she was the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament. Coming back from a fractured finger that saw her miss the preceding tri-series, she bounced back with one of the best spells in World Cup history and made contributions in every game with her slow, languid, flighted bowling style. The pint-sized spinner literally changed the game, making batters change their stance against spin in later games.
The final may be a forgettable outing, but her one spell against Australia will be remembered for a long time.
Deepti Sharma – 7/10
116 runs at an average of 38.66 and 4 wickets at an average of 32.50
An almost innocuous all-rounder in the Indian team, she has contributed with both bat and ball.
The 22-year-old was instrumental in India reaching a par score in their opening win against Australia. With a measured, unbeaten 49, she salvaged the innings and then gave away only 17 in her four overs.
The next three matches were regular outings, but she was once again the top-scorer against Australia in the final with 33 off 35, which merits an extra point in the report card.
In the ICC rankings released after the final, she broke into the top five among all-rounders for the first time.
Radha Yadav – 6.5/10
6 wickets at an average of 13.66
The young left-arm spinner played just three games after India went with a three-spinners-two-pacers combination to begin with. But once she came into the team against New Zealand, she was persisted with till the final, also making a vital contribution with the bat. Her 9-ball 14 at the death helped India have a cushion while defending against the Kiwis.
Her figures of 4/23 against Sri Lanka were her career best and included the wicket of the dangerous Chamari Athapaththu. Although the more expensive of the two left-arm spinners, she had a better strike-rate thanks to this spell.
In the final, she was the one who broke the record opening stand when she dismissed Alyssa Healy, and gave her a mouthful, according to the Australian.
Taniya Bhatia – 6/10
27 runs at 13.50 and 10 dismissals
The wicketkeeper was the standout performer behind the stumps but had another strange outing with the bat.
With a total of 10 dismissals – six catches and four stumping – she topped the keeping charts in the tournament. She was sharp with the gloves while standing up to India’s mixed bag of spinners and played a big part in the win over Australia. However, she denied Poonam Yadav a hat-trick with a dropped catch. Irrespective, she gets an extra point for her solid ‘keeping.
However, her batting was all over the place. She opened against Bangladesh but managed only two runs, scored a 25-ball 23 coming in at No 3 against New Zealand and was unfortunately concussed in the final for two.
Shikha Pandey – 6/10
7 wickets at an average of 19.42
Barring the final when she was hammered by Australia, the veteran pacer held fort admirably among the spinning stars of India. She was among the top 10 wicket takers of the World Cup with seven dismissals to her name in a spin-heavy attack.
Her wickets in the opening win over Australia included the dangerous Beth Mooney and Ashleigh Gardner and she was economical while defending. An underrated moment of India’s campaign is the final over she bowled against New Zealand, when Amelia Kerr almost took her team home. With 18 runs in the previous over and the equation down to 16 off six balls, Jensen and Kerr cracked a four each, but Pandey held her nerves on the last ball to complete the four-run win.
Rajeshwari Gayakwad – 6/10
5 wickets at an average of 25
Gayakwad was the first-choice left-arm spinner after her table-topping heroics in the preceding tri-series, but had a quiet World Cup in comparison.
She played the holding role well in the quartet of spinners, with wickets in every game barring the final. Her economy-rate was just about six till the final, where a mauling at the hands of Healy meant it tipped over. But the bigger talking point in the final was her, admittedly tough, dropped caught and bowled chance off Mooney when she was on eight.
Jemimah Rodrigues – 5/10
85 runs at average of 21.25
Although only 19, this was her second World T20 and the usual No 3 bat was expected to pick up more responsibility in the fragile middle order.
Her patient 26 off 33 formed the basis of a crucial partnership with Sharma in the opening win and she got 34 runs against Bangladesh to be the second highest scorer in that match. But she failed to make a telling contribution in the tournament and her reckless shot in the final saw her fall for a duck. Her batting position was altered with Bhatia coming in at No 3 in the games against New Zealand and Australia, but the talented youngster had a generally indifferent tour of Australia with the bat.
Veda Krishnamurthy – 5/10
54 runs at an average of 27
A middling cricketer for most part of her career, the middling run extended to her World Cup campaign as well. Her most notable contribution was the 20 off 11 against Bangladesh that propelled India to their highest score of the tournament – 142.
In the final, she was the second highest scorer with 19 off 24, which kept India’s chances of not being bowled out at bay for a brief while. But like in most matches, she gave away her wicket in pursuit of a big shot.
A big plus of Veda though is her sharp fielding. Her well-balanced catch inches from the boundary against Sri Lanka was one of the smartest at the World Cup.
Richa Ghosh – 4/10
32 runs at an average of 16
The other 16-year-old in the team, she played just the one full match against Bangladesh and then was brought in as the concussion substitute for Bhatia in the final, where her run-a-ball 18 coming in at No 8 was the third highest contribution. She is supposed to be a big-hitting, top-order batter being groomed for the future and the experience should help.
Smriti Mandhana – 3/10
49 runs at an average of 12.25
One of India’s best batters suffered a strange dip in form after a solid show in the tri-series before. Her slump came at time when it should have been the opposite, given her opening partner Verma was firing on all cylinders to take the pressure off her.
Most of her dismissals were after getting a start with scores of 10, 11, 17, 11 (She didn’t play the match against Bangladesh because of an illness) and it felt like she couldn’t get her rhythm going.
The fire and ice opening combination was supposed to be one of India’s big strengths and the failure of Mandhana affected the entire batting order.
Arundhati Reddy – 3/10
2 wickets at an average of 33
The pacer played only the first game and was taken for runs aplenty with an economy-rate of over eight. Crucially, it showed that India still doesn’t have the right back-ups in place for the fast bowling department.
Harmanpreet Kaur – 1/10
30 runs at an average of 6
Saving the poorest for the last, then. As harsh as it sounds, it is hard to find positives for the captain other than the fact that she lead the team to the final…which was on her 31st birthday.
The normally big-hitting batter endured a miserable run, failing to get going even against lower-ranked teams. The modes of her dismissal showed a batter who was woefully out of touch. A 14-ball 15 against Sri Lanka flattered to deceive but the lasting memory from the campaign will be an inability to settle down or get even her basic slogs right.
If India are to have high hopes in big matches, they cannot do it with one of their most experienced batters having such an extended horror run.
Note: Harleen Deol and Pooja Vastrakar did not play a single match in the tournament
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