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Decoding India Women’s pain points & way forward at ICC multilateral events

ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2022-23: Decoding India Women’s pain points & way forward at ICC multilateral events. Five reasons why India Women lost at ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2023 and way forward.

India Women lost in the T20 World Cup 2023 Finals to Australia Women Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCIWomen_Twitter)
India to Australia in T20 WC 2023 finals (Images: ©BCCIWomen/Twitter)

The long and agonising wait for a 'World Cup' title continues for the India Women’s team as they failed to cross the penultimate hurdle posed by the mighty arch-rivals Australia who displayed a better execution of all the skillsets in the game of cricket in the semi-final of ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 played on February 23.

Being the runners-up of the previous ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, India had a golden chance to redeem the revenge for the previous edition and Commonwealth Games gold medal loss against the same team but the phrase, ‘too close yet too far’ aptly describes how the matches have resulted between the two teams recently. As much as the game was physically exhausting, it was mentally draining for the Indian players as well as Team India fans rooting for them who have made a tryst with destiny of seeing both men’s and women’s team losing in knockout stages.

The semi-final match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup between India and Australia uncannily resembled the Commonwealth Games gold medal match between both the teams: single digit run defeat for India, top performers being Harmanpreet Kaur and Beth Mooney, India being in command of the run-chase with Harmanpreet and Jemimah doing the bulk of scoring for Team India for a considerable time before losing steam at crucial nail-biting junctures. In multilateral ICC events, India’s women’s team struggles to get past Australia and England at the knockout stages and in order to fetch the coveted trophy, Team India must find substantial answers against the tough questions posed by Australia and England, address the loopholes which is deterring the promising looking squad from the maiden elusive trophy in ICC multilateral events and work on its strengths to give themselves the best possible scenario by achieving the Herculean task.

Here we decode the 5 prominent reasons why India Women falter at the penultimate stage and find it difficult to cross the barrier in the ICC events.

Poor fielding a worrisome factor that prevents Team India to click collectively as strong unit

What bothered the most for Team India in the narrow defeat margin against Australia was their sloppy fielding effort and dropping catches which really displayed poor fielding standards and raises a question mark on the fielding drills and the minimum fitness criteria that India must possess to compete in international matches. The Women in Blue dropped a couple of catches, with Meg Lanning and Beth Mooney making India pay for the dropped chances.

Images of Ellyse Perry diving to her left or right and slapping the ball out of the reach of the boundary at the death overs where it could be anybody’s game, is going to be written down as one of the greatest fielding efforts in the history of women’s cricket. On the other hand, the Indian team was just a pale shadow of what a world-class fielding unit looks like. Now Team India will continue to be haunted by those misses on the field which could have been sufficient to gain an edge over Australia.

Former captain Diana Edulji feels no regret in stating that India’s U-19 stars fielded way better in their victorious T20 World Cup campaign and also addressed mental challenges and knockout stages nervousness better in comparison to the seniors’ effort in South Africa. Edulji reckons that most of them will struggle if the ‘yo yo’ test becomes mandatory in women’s cricket.

Lack of strong opening stand between Mandhana and Verma denied India quickfire starts

Smriti Mandhana takes her sweet little time to accelerate through the innings, so the onus of scoring quick in the powerplay falls on the shoulders of Shafali Verma. Shafali is known for ripping apart the opponents in the powerplay by hitting all across the park. But this time Shafali failed to provide the quick starts in the T20 World Cup which she was expected to deliver.

Their opening stand averaged only 33.5 in 4 innings they played together in the tournament and failed to capitalise upon the powerplay overs with their highest stand of 62, only 50+ stand between the two against Ireland and scored only 32, 29 and 11 runs stands against West Indies, England and Australia, respectively.

Shafali Verma’s quandary of scoring quick runs and set the stage for middle order

Shafali Verma led India Women’s U-19 team to the golden pages of history as they laid their hands on an ICC trophy for the first time ever. Expectations were high from this young dynamic player that she would be soaring high in confidence, basking in the glory of the recent success but it couldn’t translate the same way in the recently concluded ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023.

Shafali is considered as one of the most exciting prospects of the game but her recent performances have been sub-par, to say the least. Shafali scored 102 runs in five games at the World Cup with an average of 20.40 and a strike rate of 102. Her T20 career strike rate before the commencement of the 2023 T20 World Cup was 134.56 but with a not so good outing at the said event, her career strike rate has dipped down to 132.11.

Apart from a disappointing outing with the bat, Shafali was horrendous on the field as well. Her poor fielding effort cost India 9 runs in the semi-finals along with missing a catch of Beth Mooney on 32 who went on to score a match-winning knock of 54.

Now, the biggest question which comes is how long will Team India management back exciting talents without performance when it’s actually needed the most? With players like Shweta Sehrawat and Sabbhineni Meghana waiting to count on the opportunities if provided, how long will Team India management persist with Shafali?

With the first ever WPL starting next week, many new exciting batting talents will come up and in that case, Shafali really needs to get back to her ‘see the ball and hit the ball' game and provide the team with a solid foundation or else the management will be bound to take a stern call on her selection.

Bowling failure and lack of cohesiveness between pace and spin

India’s bowling failed collectively as a unit in the T20 World Cup. The pace and the spin department failed to work in tandem to choke the opposition even after Team India managed to get in some early breakthroughs. The only standout performer in the bowling department was Renuka Singh Thakur with a fifer against England but she was also clobbered by the Aussies in the semi-final.

India’s spinners had a really disappointing outing at the World cup as Rajeshwari Gayakwad went wicketless in the tournament and Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav failed to produce match-winning spells and rise to the occasion when India got early breakthroughs. Except for her match-winning spell against West Indies where she reached 100 wickets in her T20I career, Deepti Sharma had a below par aggregate economy rate of 8.83 against quality opposition teams like Australia, England and Pakistan claiming only three wickets against them and it was a highly disappointing performance by a bowler of her stature. Radha Yadav had a decent outing in T20 World Cup claiming 3 wickets from 4 matches at an economy rate of 7.00.

Shikha Pandey, the seasoned campaigner failed to create an impact on her return to the national team. She took 3 wickets in 3 matches at an economy rate of 6.60. Pooja Vastrakar was also a big failure with the ball before she was ruled out of the tournament. She could only take 2 wickets from 4 matches at an economy rate of 7.21.

India need to look beyond the current roster with the likes of Meghana Singh and Anjali Sarvani ready to capitalise on the opportunities.

WPL Player Auction 2023_ Richa Ghosh could fetch a handsome bid in Auction _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Richa failed to leave an impression against Australia in final s(Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Over reliance on Richa Ghosh to come to rescue Team India

The lower middle order batting of India Women’s team looks too fragile and scratchy if India lose the wickets of Harmanpreet Kaur and Richa Ghosh. Beyond Richa Ghosh in the batting order, nobody has looked promising enough to deliver substantially at the back-end. Lack of power-hitting and risk-taking abilities at the death overs and inability to rotate the strike which piles up dot balls is a very serious issue and India must look into it gravely with immediate effect. India played 51 dot balls in the loss against England. They had 41 dot balls against Ireland but still they ended up winning the contest.

An underwhelming career strike rate of both Deepti Sharma and Sneh Rana results in respective figures of 106.33 and 97.44, when they come into bat late. Pooja Vastrakar also had a career strike rate of 124.4 which is insufficient especially when the end overs demand high hitting abilities. The most noteworthy point worth mentioning is the lack of pressure handling abilities of India’s all-rounders which has put India’s lower middle order batting in jeopardy.

India have not yet produced an all-rounder except Deepti Sharma of the breed of Elysse Perry, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Devine and Ashleigh Gardener, who have the ability to contribute with both bat and ball on any given day.

Way Forward

Women’s Premier League

With the T20 World Cup campaign being done and dusted, the Indian players and fans will shift their focus towards the much-awaited Women’s Premier League (WPL) which will be held on the same lines as the Indian Premier League (IPL). The inaugural edition of the tournament is scheduled to start on March 4 in Mumbai and the matches are scheduled to be played at DY Patil Stadium and Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.

What IPL has done for the Indian men’s cricket team is not a hidden fact. It has helped produce a bunch of young talents and prospects soaring high in confidence, able to generate match-winning performances in IPL, later doing it for Team India at the international level. The WPL will be an ideal platform initiating the process of increased competitiveness, better pressure-handling abilities, ability to produce match-winning spells and knocks, improvised fielding standards and taking up leadership roles with ease which IPL has done over the years for Team India men.

WPL will be crucial for the Indian players and the domestic players as they will get a chance to compete against the best and go through tough situations in the tournament further helping them with mental conditioning. Also, sharing the same dressing room with seasoned campaigners like Meg Lanning, Elysse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Heather Knight, Megan Schutt, Sophie Devine, Jess Jonassen and Deandra Dottin can be a learning curve for Indian youngsters to be able to soak the pressure, learn new facets of the game and groom themselves in a better way through better execution of skills.

It will also serve as a platform for the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Shafali Verma and others to gain their form back for the coming international fixtures. Also, it provides India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur to look for more bright prospects amongst young domestic players.

Working on improvising fielding standards and mental agility while being subjected to intense pressure

The fielding standards of Team India was awful in the recently concluded ICC Women’s T20 World Cup but it’s not the end of the road for them. Now what has happened in the past can’t be modified but taking stern lessons from the failures can help rewrite a better version of Team India in fielding and handling nerve wracking moments better. India Women’s cricket team badly needs a strength and conditioning coach along with a mental conditioning coach. India lost to Australia in those crucial factors - fielding and mental strength.

Working on reducing dot balls percentage and look to score quickly in powerplay overs

Team India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur rued playing way too many dot balls, inability to take singles and twos and rotate the strike. In the group-stage match against England at the 2023 T20 World Cup, India lost by 11 runs and played as many as 51 dot balls which is nothing less than a heinous crime in T20 matches; it is almost like losing 8 and a half overs on the trot. In the match between India and Ireland, India would have felt fortunate enough to win the match by 5 runs via DLS method in a rain-curtailed match, they were just lucky enough to escape from the claws of defeat playing as many as 41 dot balls against them. Not only the batters who play these dot balls come under pressure but it also creates a trickle down effect on the next set of batters who choke under pressure and play wrong shots.

Also, India is not amongst the top three teams in T20 international matches to score heavily in the powerplay overs in T20Is which has prevented India getting quick starts more often. India should work on improving the strike rate and the run rate in the powerplay overs, so that it creates a strong foundation for the upcoming batters who can afford to take some time at the crease before going bonkers at the end.


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