ICC Women's World T20: India's knockout woes continue
It was yet another case of so near yet so far for Indian women's cricket team as they crashed out of the ICC Women's World T20 in the semifinal stage. Harmanpreet Kaur's troops lost to England in what was a lopsided contest. The England women cruised to the final with an eight-wicket victory, with 17 balls to spare.
Indian women, who were in rollicking form throughout the group stages of the World T20, could not cope up with the strong England side. Electing to bat first in the first evening game of the tournament, India started off in a good fashion by scoring 43 runs for the loss of one wicket.
They seemed to be going pretty well until the 13th over of their innings. India lost just 2 wickets for 89 runs before falling like a pack of cards and folding for a mere 112 runs. England skipper Heather Knight played the role of wrecker-in-chief as she picked up 3 wickets for 9 runs in her 2 overs and left India with no space for a fightback.
The first evening game of the tournament too had a role in India's collapse, in which the slowness in pace after the ball got a bit old proved too costly for the batters. They charged at the England spinners instead of playing on the back-foot and waiting for the ball to come on to the bat. The two-paced wicket was then exploited shrewdly by Heather Knight and Sophie Ecclestone. They duo kept drawing the batters forward and forced them to play on the up, resulting in dismissals in the form of stumpings and deep catches.
In reply, England adapted to the pitch and completed their chase of a 113 in just 103 deliveries to advance to the final of the World T20. India, keeping with the nature of the pitch, started off with their slow bowlers in the form of Deepti Sharma and Richa Yadav in order to inflict similar damage as their counterparts. However, the spinners ended up with just 2 wickets as the English batters outclassed them.
Mithali Raj's exclusion aggravates India's knockout woes
The semifinal and final stages of world tournaments have not been very kind to the Indian women's team. They had lost to the same England side by just 7 runs in the 50-over World Cup final last year. This was followed by a loss to Bangladesh in the final of the Asia Cup T20.
A lot was promised by the Indian women's team this year, especially after the kind of start they had in the tournament. Harmanpreet's team beat England in the warm-up match before inflicting defeats on Australia and New Zealand in the group stages. The Indian batting had got off to a great start in all the group stage encounters, leaving the lower-middle and the lower order untested. This aspect proved to be costly in the semifinal where India lost 7 batters for single-digit scores.
The biggest surprise of the game was India's decision to exclude the most successful batter in T20 history. Mithali Raj was surprisingly dropped from the team for this all important clash. Mithali had sscored half centuries to guide India to victories against Ireland and Pakistan.
Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian captain, gave vague reasons for Mithali's exclusion citing the need of an extra bowler in the form of Anuja Patil. However, the latter couldn't muster a great deal either with the ball or with the bat. There are rumours of politics playing a role in the exclusion of Mithali from the team. This was amplified especially by Mithali's own manager who lashed out at Harmanpreet on Twitter.
Harmanpreet brushed aside all the allegations and said she does not regret any of her decisions, especially because India went on to beat the mighty Australian women's team without Mithali Raj. She stated it was the team's needs that prompted her to drop Mithali for an extra bowling all-rounder.
However, India would have benefited greatly with Mithali in the team ranks because of her sheer experience of playing on slow pitches like the one dished out at Antigua in the semifinals. The highest run-getter was also in good form in the tournament with her two half-centuries making a strong case.
Mithali's exclusion proved too costly because India did not have a sheet anchor when the ball got soft and all the batters found themselves in the pavillion while trying to accelerate at the wrong time. She could have propelled the team to a reasonable total even if she'd batted in the middle order. The lack of experience in their lineup resulted in India losing key moments in the game and squandering such a great chance to win their first ever World T20.