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Women's T20 World Cup: There is depth in Indian team

While much work is still left, it can be said that the main strength of this Indian side is depth. Unlike in 2017 or 2018, when they were heavily dependant on two or three players, this current side is not dependant on the stars to notch up important wins.

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Last Updated: Feb 29, 2020, 12.08 AM IST
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ANI
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India players celebrate the wicket of Katey Martin during the ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup match between India and New Zealand at Junction Oval, in Melbourne on Thursday.
By Boria Majumdar

The Indian women’s cricket team, with three straight wins to be the first to make it to the semi-finals, have been in red hot form in the ongoing T20 World Cup. And the wins have come despite the three stars of the team — Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues — not being at their best. While skipper Harmanpreet has looked out of sorts with the bat, Smriti, despite getting starts, is due for a big one. Rodrigues too has looked good but has not played an impactful innings in the tournament so far. Yet, India have managed to topple defending champions Australia, Asian champions Bangladesh and in-form New Zealand to make the last four.

While much work is still left, it can be said that the main strength of this Indian side is depth. Unlike in 2017 or 2018, when they were heavily dependant on two or three players, this current side is not dependant on the stars to notch up important wins. Most members of the team play their roles to perfection and with a bowling unit where each one is performing to potential there is reason to believe that Harmanpreet’s team can go the distance.

As we celebrate teen sensation Shafali Varma, it is important to realise that she hasn’t come out of nowhere. She is, what can be called, the 2017 generation that was inspired by the Indian team that made the final of the 2017 ODI World Cup in England. Seeing Harmanpreet’s 171 against Australia, an innings that will forever rank as one of the best ever, the young girls had started to feel they could also make it big playing cricket. And when Mithali Raj’s girls returned home to a rousing welcome and were celebrated and feted the country over, it started a silent revolution in the country.

The number of girls at the cricket academies had overnight increased many fold and some of those girls, between 16 and 22, are now knocking on the doors of the national team with some already in Australia. It is this revolution that has now given us players like Verma, Ghosh, Harleen Deol and others. “Smriti is no longer alone at the top,” says Jhulan Goswami, one of the legends of the game. “With Shafali the pressure on her is considerably less. If you see the top five, Smriti, Shafali, Jemimah, Harman and Deepti (Sharma), one or two of them will surely get runs every game and get you over the line.”

In bowling too, the depth is what stands this team apart. Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey and Deepti are all wicket-taking options. The moment the batters post a 130-plus total on the board, the Indians are in business. This is a result of all the good things that have happened to the women’s cricket in the last four years. With the introduction of central contracts in 2015, it finally became a viable career option. Then came the mini-IPL, which in 2019 was watched by thousands, encouraging the BCCI to start thinking of a full-fledged IPL for women a couple of years down the line. With Mithali and Harmanpreet signing multiple endorsement contracts, the stock of the women’s game has gone up. There is investment in grassroots, a proper coaching structure and a calendar. That’s what had set Australia apart all these years. With India finally turning a leaf with investment in women’s cricket, it is only a matter of time before the Indians catch up with the world’s best and become a powerhouse globally, much like the men’s team is at the moment.

While it is true that it is not a finished product yet and there are issues in the middle order, it is also true that most of the signs are all positive. If the Indians make the final, things will scale up a few more notches. It is safe to suggest that the clamour for a full fledged women’s IPL further gain momentum and youngsters like Verma will soon become the dominant face of Indian women’s cricket. On international women’s day, we can surely expect the Indian women’s game to change forever.

The Indian women’s cricket team, with three straight wins to be the first to make it to the semi-finals, have been in red hot form in the ongoing T20 World Cup. And the wins have come despite the three stars of the team — Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues — not being at their best. While skipper Harmanpreet has looked out of sorts with the bat, Smriti, despite getting starts, is due for a big one. Rodrigues too has looked good but has not played an impactful innings in the tournament so far. Yet, India have managed to topple defending champions Australia, Asian champions Bangladesh and in-form New Zealand to make the last four.

While much work is still left, it can be said that the main strength of this Indian side is depth. Unlike in 2017 or 2018, when they were heavily dependant on two or three players, this current side is not dependant on the stars to notch up important wins. Most members of the team play their roles to perfection and with a bowling unit where each one is performing to potential there is reason to believe that Harmanpreet’s team can go the distance.

As we celebrate teen sensation Shafali Varma, it is important to realise that she hasn’t come out of nowhere. She is, what can be called, the 2017 generation that was inspired by the Indian team that made the final of the 2017 ODI World Cup in England. Seeing Harmanpreet’s 171 against Australia, an innings that will forever rank as one of the best ever, the young girls had started to feel they could also make it big playing cricket. And when Mithali Raj’s girls returned home to a rousing welcome and were celebrated and feted the country over, it started a silent revolution in the country.

The number of girls at the cricket academies had overnight increased many fold and some of those girls, between 16 and 22, are now knocking on the doors of the national team with some already in Australia. It is this revolution that has now given us players like Verma, Ghosh, Harleen Deol and others. “Smriti is no longer alone at the top,” says Jhulan Goswami, one of the legends of the game. “With Shafali the pressure on her is considerably less. If you see the top five, Smriti, Shafali, Jemimah, Harman and Deepti (Sharma), one or two of them will surely get runs every game and get you over the line.”

In bowling too, the depth is what stands this team apart. Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey and Deepti are all wicket-taking options. The moment the batters post a 130-plus total on the board, the Indians are in business. This is a result of all the good things that have happened to the women’s cricket in the last four years. With the introduction of central contracts in 2015, it finally became a viable career option. Then came the mini-IPL, which in 2019 was watched by thousands, encouraging the BCCI to start thinking of a full-fledged IPL for women a couple of years down the line. With Mithali and Harmanpreet signing multiple endorsement contracts, the stock of the women’s game has gone up. There is investment in grassroots, a proper coaching structure and a calendar. That’s what had set Australia apart all these years. With India finally turning a leaf with investment in women’s cricket, it is only a matter of time before the Indians catch up with the world’s best and become a powerhouse globally, much like the men’s team is at the moment.

While it is true that it is not a finished product yet and there are issues in the middle order, it is also true that most of the signs are all positive. If the Indians make the final, things will scale up a few more notches. It is safe to suggest that the clamour for a full fledged women’s IPL further gain momentum and youngsters like Verma will soon become the dominant face of Indian women’s cricket. On international women’s day, we can surely expect the Indian women’s game to change forever.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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