Monday, July 24, 2017

Women in Blue - take a bow

Its been >12 hours since we lost the final and I have calmed down considerably so now is the time to reflect on the tournament & the final. The Women in Blue did a fantastic job getting to the finals and almost winning the cup so kudos to that. 191-3 with 38 to win from 43 was eminently winnable but we did not. Its easy to use words like chokers but we are NOT that. Given our last league game was a must-win and we were up against New Zealand who had played brilliantly till then (not to mention our appalling record against them), for us to have won so handsomely meant the girls had guts of steel....and then that semifinal performance against Australia. Wow. Just Wowww.

Coming to yday's game, after restricting England to 228, despite the pressure of chasing in a cup final, I am sure India was everyone's favorite to win the match at HT. So why did we lose it? For a captain as experienced as Mithali who's taken brave calls like dropping Ekta Bisht our match-winner against Pakistan (yes, they aren’t really our match in women's cricket but still...) for Gayakwad in subsequent matches, it was shocking to see Smriti Mandhana retain her place. Its all fine walloping 90 and 106 against the minnows but her subsequent scores of 2, 8, 4, 3, 13, 6 clearly showed someone who was lacking confidence and possibly technique as well. Even if axing her was extreme, we should have dropped her down the order as the last thing you want chasing in a world cup final is to lose a wicket very early on which is exactly what happened. Promoting Sushma Verma  was also a calculated gamble that misfired badly as it ended up creating complete panic. Then when the time to stand up and be counted arrived,  a vastly experienced person like Jhulan Goswami just failed to deliver. It is also time we ensured our tail-enders also practiced some batting and common sense running between the wickets. Ultimately, I put it all down to lack of experience and if we can learn the lessons from this loss and become stronger for it, all the heartbreak is worth it.

I don’t want this to seem like a rant or taking potshots when someone is down - as my better half can testify, I actually follow Indian women's cricket and adore this team. I genuinely believe we only fulfilled our potential this time and have greater things coming for us. For starters, politicians/sports bodies/celebrities should stop announcing these one-time rewards & praising/commending the team and then forget about them in a month or so. What is needed is solid, steady sponsorship from corporates so that we continue to unearth talent who can get a livelihood if they choose to pursue this game. We also need backing from the Board to ensure this young team gets more exposure and experience which means we need to have a proper annual itinerary which includes overseas tours. Lastly, we need a stronger support staff outfit. Tushar Arothe has done a commendable job with this team and has been a great servant for Indian/Baroda cricket but I can only imagine how different things could have been y'day if Anil Kumble / Rahul Dravid was in the dugout in some capacity. If Kohli & gang don’t want competent people, I am sure the girls and the U-21/U-15 would love to work with the likes of Dravid and Kumble.

Congrats again to Mithali and team - enjoy the love/adulation but do not rest on your laurels, there are greater mountains to climb and I have no doubts you will do it.