Well Played, But Victory Would Have Been Sweeter!
NEW DELHI: Never ever in the history of the Indian women cricket has been this time, with cricket lovers glued to their television sets and praying for the victory of the women in blue. But so it was on July 23, 2017 from the moment our girls walked out to play England at Lords. it was all different on the 23rd of July, 2017, when Indian women were all set to play the final of cricket world cup against England at Lords.
After 12 years, the Indian women cricket team had reached the finals of the world cup and that too in ‘shahi andaaz’. Few days ago, Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171 runs in 119 balls had made all the cricket pundits jump in their seats. It was a match winning and a heart winning innings by this woman who by her stroke-play won the hearts of many cricket fans. The way the Indian team thrashed Australia in the semi-finals, had everyone excited for the dream finals.
Suddenly, BCCI announced cash prizes of Rs 50 lakhs for each member of the cricket team and 25 lakhs for the support staff. All the news channels were suddenly holding panel discussions before the start of the game. A hype was created and people believed this match could turn out to be the 1983 moment for the Indian women cricket.
Amidst this heat, the match started in rather cold weather. Put in to bowl first, Indian women kept taking wickets at regular intervals. India’s experienced bowler Jhulan Goswami bowled her heart out as she conceded just 23 runs in her quota of 10 overs and took 3 valuable wickets. It was because of her scintillating performance that India managed to restrict England below 250 runs. After the end of 50 overs, the English women made 228 runs at the board.
The target of 229 runs was set for the Indian team to come and conquer the world cup trophy. Sadly, India didn’t have a good start as Indian opener Smriti Mandhana was back in the pavilion for a ‘duck’ leaving India at the score of 5/1. Then came captain cool, Mithali Raj at the crease. Being the veteran of so many encounters she had a huge responsibility to give India a good start. Things were going well until she got run out rather unfortunately, at just 19 runs.
At this point, Harmanpreet Kaur, the previous match’s sensation entered the crease. This was a crucial time to enter the game because one or two more wickets could have heavily tilted the game in England’s favour. Harmanpreet Kaur and Punam Rawat lived up to expectations and kept the scoreboard going beautifully. Both of them completed their half centuries. The Indian team was at a very comfortable position at the end of the33rd over with 135 runs on the board, 8 wickets in hand and less than 100 runs to win.
In the very next over, this 95 run partnership was broken as Harmanpreet departed after scoring 51 runs. The match was evenly poised at this moment as both teams were equally in the game. Veda Krishnamurthy joined the Indian opener Punam Rawat at the crease who was batting beautifully after scoring her half century. Both of them took India closer to the winning total as India reached 190 at the end of 42 overs with 7 wickets in hand and less than 40 runs to get the world cup title.
What transpired in the next 7 overs was like a horror story. As Punam Rawat got out after scoring brilliant 86 runs, the rest of team started falling like a pack of cards. Poor shot selection and nervousness of Indian women made English cricketers life pretty easier. They started sensing victory and bundled out the Indian team at 219 runs. Indian women were just 9 runs short of victory!
It was a heart breaking moment for the cricket fans back home and those present at the stadium. India was too close, yet too far from tasting victory. A win here could have changed the entire landscape of women cricket in India. There have been very few occasions in our society where women sports are watched and appreciated. It was one of the rare moments where in our patriarchal society; women were appreciated for their performance in the arena of sports.
Ofcourse, everyone praised the team’s performance and the way they played in the entire tournament, but victory would have been so much sweeter. Nevertheless, this team played their hearts out and their performance will be remembered for years to come, by the next generations of women cricketers.