ICC Women’s world T20 - From Lord’s to Melbourne: Promise fizzles out under pressure, all over again
The Melbourne Cricket Ground was buzzing, Kate Perry was performing live, the teams walked out, screamed out their national anthems, the crowd was lapping it all up. Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney walked out to take guard, Harmanpreet handed the ball to Deepti Sharma. Yes, the build-up was huge, the expectations were massive, but now it was time to perform.
The first ball was a full bunger, Healy raced down the track and smacked it wide of long-on. A boundary to get things rolling and Australia wanted to dictate terms. Another boundary followed, a catch was dropped in that over, India were struggling to make their presence felt.
The template was set, for both sides, Rajeshwari dropped Beth Mooney and right at this moment, Healy dropped the hammer and took proceedings in her own hands. She was on the charge, attacked the spinners, smashed the pacers and Australia had gained early ascendancy in the grand final.
India kept fumbling, Healy kept caning them, she was in no mood to relent and cranked it up a notch after reaching her 50. Beth Mooney, on the other hand, was slowly turning the strike over, she had got her eye in and now, even she was climbing all over the Indian bowlers. Along the way, Healy was dropped again, she winked, danced and continued smoking the bowlers. She was finally dismissed for 75, but the 115 runs opening stand had put Australia on course.
The chase which never got going
184 runs were always going to be a steep mountain to climb for India and these brought back memories of the 2017 ODI world cup when after the build-up and expectations, when after the majority of the match was dominated by Mithali Raj and team, the final few overs shut the door on the side. They were chasing down 228 and were cruising along at 191 for 3 when they collapsed. When the carnage ended at Lord’s, India were bowled out for 219. A defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.
In many ways, this match today at MCG was mirror image of what happened in Lord’s.
It was a huge day for women’s cricket, it was the day when Indian cricket could have taken a decisive step, it could well have taken, but the way the side reacted to pressure was something which will leave no one impressed.
The chase began, Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana walked out - Shafali walked back, Taniya Bhatia came in, she walked back too, Jemimah came in, took guard, hit one straight to mid-on. The crowd had not even blinked, India were 2 down and one player was retired. Mandhana stroked a couple of boundaries and then she hit one down the throat of mid-off. India were three down and Nasser Hussain exclaimed in the commentary box ‘ India are crumbling’ and crumble they did. It was a final between the two best sides of the tournament, but unfortunately only one arrived, the other one was swept away by the sheer amount of pressure and the enormity of the occasion. The side was brilliant all through the tournament, but come the big night, they blinked, stuttered and slipped!
Women’s cricket is on the upward curve, Indian team is leading this charge, but the side has to learn ways and means to cope up with pressure a lot better. On the day when it mattered the most, Australia won the big moments and India allowed them to slip by - in many ways, this match reflected how India need to react when the pressure is amped.
It was the last ball of the 13th over, Richa Ghosh met the ball with a full face of the bat, timed it over covers, the ball was racing towards the boundary ropes. The fielder sprinted across, stuck out her left hand and saved a certain boundary.
“There, in a nutshell, is what has happened in the match. Australia have been brilliant, India were weak in the field,” Harsha Bhogle said during commentary.
There were tears in the Indian dugout, there was an outpour of emotions, the biggest match of their lives turned out to be a nightmare. However, this Indian team has age on their side, and this Indian team has pedigree. The ensured they forced people to talk about them, now they have to ensure they start winning titles!
“The way we played in the league stages, it was outstanding. It was unfortunate to drop those catches today. Upcoming 1.5 years is important. The future is good for us, we need to trust ourselves. You have to keep learning. The first game was very good, it gave us a lot of confidence. We spent a lot of time together, unfortunate for us not to win today. We have to keep working hard. We are in the right line, every year we are improving. We need to play with more focus. Sometimes, we are not able to give our best,” captain Harmanpreet Kaur said after the match and she could not have been more accurate in her assessment.