India fared poorly as a fielding unit in their soul-crushing semifinal defeat to the Aussies. But there are positives too from their campaign...
In Cape Town on Thursday, the Indian women cricketers walked out onto the field with the intent of halting defending champions Australia's stranglehold on the ICC Women's T20 World Cup.
As a fielding side, their efforts were not a patch on their resolve. Australia's two top run getters - Beth Mooney and Meg Lanning - were handed three lifelines. Fielding was sloppy resulting in at least 15 runs gifted and the bowling for the most part was pedestrian. Barely 22 balls into their batting, India were down by three wickets. The popular notion was - they had choked yet again.
But that was before the Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues show. Their 37-minute association was all spunk and heart. From looking like also-rans to coming agonizingly close before losing by five runs indicates progress, according to former chief coach of the Indian women's team WV Raman.
"The best thing about India was the way they chased. During the innings break, they would have felt disappointed and their spirits would have been down because of a few mistakes made on the field and some extra runs conceded. But when they came out to bat, they did not allow that to deflate them or dampen their spirits. That is a huge progress as far as the team is concerned. T20 has a lot of emotional highs and lows, on that front they did really well," said the former left-hand batter with over two decades of coaching experience.
As India begins the rebuilding process, Raman believes a conducive environment is essential. "There is a need to provide an environment where independent thinking and personalities are allowed to evolve. That is when they will go and do what is required. You cannot be moulding one sort of a personality off the field and expect them to contradict it on the pitch. Unless they have the freedom to figure things out themselves as individuals, it becomes difficult for them to do so as cricketers," he said.
On the field, Raman pointed towards investment in development of all-rounders as the way forward.
"There has to be focused camps at the National Cricket Academy. Before the start of the World Cup, I kept saying that India's chances of winning hinged a lot on the form and fitness of Pooja Vastrakar. India missed her in the semifinal after she was ruled out due to illness. We need to have more allrounders like her. Emphasis has to be on focused approach and programs for cricketers with all-round abilities. Also, they should look for some more fast bowlers," said Raman, who was coach of the team between 2018-2021.
While senior players like Harmanpreet and Jemimah remained composed, there were players who wilted under pressure. Asked to weigh in on the need for a mental conditioning coach, the 57-year -old said, "It will be of help but mental toughness does not come overnight. It has to be a holistic approach."