Tough times for women's cricket in India, but future remains bright
It is said that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Who would have thought that Afghanistan would win ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2018 after losing their first 3 matches? Who would have thought that the Australian captain and vice-captain would receive bans for their conduct in the ongoing Test series between Australia and South Africa?
This has been the case with the Indian women's cricket team of late as well. From being in the final of the World Cup in 2017 to winning the limited-overs series against the mighty South Africans, India were peaking before their fortunes changed drastically.
What went wrong?
India have had no answers to the way Australia have played in the ongoing series. Pitches have been flat and hence there have been big scores posted by the opponents. The Indian spinners picked up only six wickets in the three-match ODI series whereas the Australian spinners scalped 18 wickets in the three games. This fact alone shows India’s dismal performance in the recently concluded one-day series.
A change in format from ODIs to T20Is, a change in venue from Vadodara to Mumbai and the return of Jhulan Goswami also couldn't change India's fortunes. The Indian team won only one game in the tri-series between India, Australia, and England. To make matters worse, they were knocked out even before their last game.
While the ODI series clearly indicated Australia's superiority, the T20I series showed India's lack of skill in the shortest version of the game. The Indian bowlers have been found wanting with the ball whereas the Indian batswomen have struggled to score at a fair clip. Perhaps they need helpful pitches to compete better in future games against the top-ranked sides.
Despite posting a huge score of 198 in the T20I against England, the English team chased it down with the utmost ease courtesy a 64-ball 124 by opener Danielle Wyatt. The Indian bowling has lacked penetration and it has also failed in containing the opponents due to a lack of wickets.
The root cause
There are a few concerns for the Indian side, including the inability of the bowlers to contain runs and pick wickets quickly. There has been a lack of contribution by the middle and lower order players as well. Players like Veda Krishnamurthy and Mithali Raj contributed heavily to India's success in the 2017 Women’s World Cup but have struggled of late.
How they can improve
India have taken a step in the right direction by dropping Punam Raut and Mona Meshram and bringing in Devika Vaidya and Dayalan Hemalatha for the ODI series against England.
Punam has consistently struggled in home conditions. Her strike rate is has been on the lower side and she hasn't shown the intent to attack.
With an eye on the future, India might look at Smriti Mandhana as a captain. She's evolved as a player in recent times and has been the most consistent performer for her side. With Mithali and Jhulan still around for a while, it'll help Smriti get some very good inputs about leading the team from the two veterans of Indian cricket.
In Jemimah, Devika, Pooja, and Deepti, India have got quite a few good youngsters who will get better with experience at the senior level. More emphasis on developing women's cricket at a grassroots level and giving talented youngsters an opportunity to play against big players from other countries in practice matches or through "A" tours will help a lot.