There are contrasting ways of looking at India’s semifinal appearance in the women’s T20 World Cup. The doubters complain they fumbled in the first high-pressure match of the series. The romantics empathise with the fact that their one off-day coincided with their biggest day. The reality lies somewhere in between their steamrollering streak to the semifinal and the galling defeat at the hands of England — India is a competitive team, but still far from a world-beating one. Just as one shoddy day shouldn’t make them a bad team, a stroll through a group that had only Australia as genuine challengers shouldn’t make them a great team.
The defeat was a reality check, but deficiencies in the group stage were glossed over by individual sparkle. There, beyond a speck of doubt, is sufficient quality, especially in batting and spin-bowling. Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana are two of the finest batters in the world. Poonam Yadav and Deepti Sharma are the envy of the spin-bowling fraternity. Players like Veda Krishnamurthy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Anuja Patil and Radha Yadav have demonstrated considerable promise in the past. If they can produce a concerted effort — if only they had against England — they would no doubt scale heights. But in this World Cup, they were over-reliant on a few individuals, the middle-order lacked spark and stability, and the seam-bowling department was thin. The craft and experience of Jhulan Goswami was sorely missed, and there was tactical naivete.
Nothing else explains the decision to overlook a fit-again Mithali Raj. Dispensing with the services of the most experienced player, the highest run-getter for India across formats, who played the biggest role in the group-stage canter, seemed churlish. Her match-awareness was sorely missed, as India’s batters perished attempting audacious strokes, on a surface that required steady not spectacular batting. The youthful fire required the icy wisdom of experience. Nonetheless, the graph of India’s women cricketers seems only to be rising. Now it’s for the team to prove their off-day was a one-off.