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ICC Women’s World cup 2022: Another year and another missed chance of an ICC Trophy for India

India was the runners up in the last 2017 ODI World Cup in England and during the 2020 T-20 World Cup in Australia.

Female Cricket #CWC22/ Twitter

It’s always a small inch that seems to cost us the trophy, men or women none is immune to it.

The penultimate quarter final match between India Women and South Africa Women boiled down to a nail biting last over match where India required to defend only six runs with skipper Mithali Raj handing the ball over to the death-overs’ protagonist Deepti Sharma, who nearly pulled off victory. Sharma conceded four off her first four balls and then had Mignon du Preez caught at long-on but had overstepped. The rest as can be presumed is history.

 “She had a lot of clarity of where she needed to bowl the last over but somewhere these no-balls haven’t been working in India’s favour,” Raj said in the post-match conference.

But is the problem only the final day No-ball going against India’s fate or the problem was even deeper? Let’s dissect it.

Improper squad selection:

Riding on the success of World Cup 2017 and World T-20 2020 where they finished as runners up, all were expecting Indian women to rock this year’s world cup too and what remained unfinished in 2017 despite coming so close was aimed to be achieved. But to our utter disappointment, this continues to be a dream for future as Indian women lost the semi-final bus on the last ball against SAW.

Ever since the squad for the tournament was declared, it did raise many eyebrows regarding many names that weren’t found in the squad and was instead to be seen warming the bench.

Main Indian Squad for the 2022 World Cup: 

Mithali Raj (captain), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Taniya Bhatia, Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad

Reserve Players:

S Meghana, Ekta Bisht, Simran Bahadur

A number of questionable selections have been made by the team management. Owing to the lack of form, top players like Jemimah Rodrigues, Punam Raut and Shikha Pandey have been left out of the squad, which has resulted in some negative reactions.

Shikha Pandey, who is India’s very best death bowling option, doesn’t play in World Cup is surely a hard to digest fact.

Jemimah Rodriquez might not be in the best of her form but she has already proved herself in leagues like Big-bash and the Hundred; a gun fielder who has experience of playing in Australia was also left out and this was another such decision that did not make much sense.

Although the batting looked pretty decent with quite a number of fire-power but there are many weaknesses that were pretty evident and has been witnessed in this world cup as well.

Lack of Finishers in the bunch:

As has been the case in the past, the Indian batting line-up lacks proven finishers in their ranks which has cost them quite badly in ODI matches. Thus, in spite of a good foundation built by the top-order, they have failed to capitalize and convert the 260-270s into 300s as the other teams have managed to do on a regular basic. Harmanpreet Kaur is a classic finisher who has underperformed.

Deepti Sharma haven’t been able to bat with aggression for a sustained period to really cause any panic while Richa Ghosh, though talented, is not too experienced to be counted on for this role. In their recent game against South Africa, India reached the 270s but it was not enough on the final day. A few runs extra from the finishers could have made the story different.

To add more spice, Mithali Raj, after some of the greatest starts by the openers, had wasted some of the deliveries to get set and went on to get out after a scratchy fifty leaving the team under the hammer.

Lack of Penetration in Bowling Attack:

Another problem with the Indian team is the lack of penetration in the bowling unit. Shikha Pandey was very threatening in the World T20 in Australia but have not been selected for the World Cup.

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Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Sneh Rana, and Pooja Vastrakar are new in the Indian setup and will take their time to develop as bowlers. There is a lack of quality bowlers at the death-overs which nearly cost us the World Cup.

Hitting the sky as well the ground both at the same time:

We witnessed one of those bizarre moments when the Indian women put up a humongous 317 and blew West Indies for mere 162 and right in the next match got out for 132 against the English women. Such inconsistencies on a World Cup stage were always indicative of what would happen in future.

“There’ve been ups and downs,” Raj said in summation at her final press conference of the event. “We did well against West Indies but we lost against England, Australia and even New Zealand. We didn’t really put up a fight in those two games (England and New Zealand). Overall, we could have done better in the initial phase of the tournament.”

Opportunities-players to look for:

Talented Youngsters can be the X-Factor:

Considering the quality of the youngsters in the side, it may not be a surprise that the new talent could have a bearing on India’s performance in the upcoming years. Yastika Bhatia has been excellent against Australia and is almost a like-for-like replacement of the out-of-form Jemimah Rodrigues. She already has a half-century in a short career spanning just 7 games and has got starts consistently.

Sneh Rana was excellent in England, where she scored an unbeaten 80 and helped India salvage a draw while being among the wickets. Her batting prowess also resulted in India’s only ODI win of the tour. Striking at 105, Richa Ghosh is good wicket-keeping option, playing the role of a finisher with her dashing strokes. Meghna Singh was also very impressive in Australia series.

End of an era: Looking beyond Raj and Goswami:

As speculated from the start, 2022 world cup might mark the end of the two veterans of the game Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami. Mithali has played 6 World Cups whereas Jhulan has played five 50-over World Cups so far. The former was the captain of the team which played the final of the 2005 and 2017 World Cups. Goswami captained the team in the 2009 World Cup.

“I really wanted to win this game so that we could give her [Goswami] another game to play in the semi-finals”- Raj after loss against South Africa.

 She further indicates that changes are inevitable, especially after a World Cup. “They will be generations of playing coming and going. After every World Cup, there is always a change in the team and the dressing room.”

Will there be changes in the squad:

“There will be fresh faces in, there will be some experienced players in, every team has to go through this process of rebuilding after the World Cup, especially the one-day World Cup, so that they prepare for the coming World Cups in another four years,” she said. “We are no different. We will also go through the same transformation.”

Contributions of Raj and Goswami to Indian women’s cricket team is absolute worth of gold, it’s their continuous hard work and selfless dedication to the sport that has made young girls go crazy about the sport and not only that the BCCI now is thinking about incorporating women’s IPL in the country from upcoming years.

To see the women’s team, proceed without these two champions will be a tough thing to witness but the show must go on!

Mithali and Jhulan might have not won a world cup but surely have overseen a revolution in Women’s Cricket.

What to follow in the road for them:

After a break of almost 16 weeks to get refreshed, as of now being scheduled, The Indian Women side will play the opening match of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham against Australia, the winner of the World Cup 2022.

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