“Sath Mein Girenge, Sath Mein Uthenge, Hum Hai Team India, Hum Sath Mein Chalenge!” [We’ll fall together, we’ll rise together, we’re Team India, we’ll walk together]
After agonisingly missing out on the Commonwealth Games women’s cricket gold against Australia, Jemimah Rodrigues put down a heartfelt note on her social media accounts, praising the Indian team’s “grit, tenacity, and character” and how they will not stop until they turn this silver into gold. Likewise, the team’s vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, wrote, “Sorry that we could not get home the gold but surely golden days are ahead for this team!”
The most obvious sign of both these posts is how desperately this team wants to win and is now pushing for that elusive gold.
In the final, concussion substitute Yastika Bhatia tripped over the advertising board while walking out to bat, leaving her teammates, including Smriti Mandhana, Rodrigues and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, bursting out in laughter. This incident is another example of how well this team gets along. Despite the loss, there is harmony in the dressing room, and they are definitely a close-knit unit. This is something which has seldom been seen in women’s cricket in India.
There are silver linings in the defeat, but going forward, there won’t be sympathies. Instead, there will be criticism, scrutiny and assessment of their performances because it is the third time in the last five years that they have lost in the finals of a major tournament.
India had familiar ghosts haunting them and pegging them back to yet another runners-up finish. At Lord’s in the 2017 World Cup final against England, at the MCG in the the 2020 T20 World Cup final against Australia, and now at Edgbaston in the inaugural CWG final. Apart from the T20 World Cup final, India were in pole position to win that elusive trophy on the other two occasions.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly congratulated the Indian team but at the same time pointed out that it was their game and they should have won it. He tweeted: “Congratulations to the Indian women’s team for winning silver ..But they will go home disappointed as it was their game tonite .. @BCCIWomen.” Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin, too, criticised India’s batting. He tweeted: “Rubbish batting by the Indian team. No common sense. Gave away a winning game on a platter.”
After the loss, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur rued the trend of mistakes and spoke about how they must shed the “mental block” in the title clashes. She said: “Every time in the big final, we make the same mistakes again and again with the bat, that is something we have to improve.”
But again, in the future, the onus will also be on the skipper to not throw away her wicket in crunch time. With Harmanpreet at the crease, India were cruising. She had not played a single rash shot. She was driving beautifully, the sweeps were imperious, but then she decided to play a cheeky scoop shot and got out. Her wicket gave the world champions an opening, and they just feasted on it.
Another thing the Indian skipper and the team management will have to be careful about is to get the selection right on and off the field. Wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia’s selection over the talented Richa Ghosh was quite baffling, but Yastika Bhatia, a top-order batter walking out at No 9 in the final after the likes of Sneh Rana and Radha Yadav, was equally questionable.
Despite the heartbreaking loss there is a silver lining in this team. The openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma batted fearlessly at the top. The find of the tournament for India was swing bowler Renuka Singh Thakur, who bagged 11 wickets in five games. In the tournament opener against Australia, she single-handedly ran through the top order. Radha Yadav was a miser with the ball and was electric on the field. Be it the run out of Meg Lanning or the screamer of Tahlia McGrath she took diving full length to her left at backward point, Radha Yadav was everywhere in the field. The all-round trio of Pooja Vastrakar, Deepti Sharma, and Sneh Rana did reasonably well , and the consistency shown by Harmanpreet Kaur was a big plus.
The team is young and in transition post the retirements of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, but the core is ready. All they need is backing, and to play with the “killing attitude” their skipper talked about before the Commonwealth Games, and the silverware will come.