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ICC T20 World Cup | Gradual Improvement & Blooding the Youth – India’s Record Since 2018 Women’s T20 WC

A look at India’s results since the semi-final loss in 2018 shows a gradual growth in terms of performances yet old problems remain and often come to the fore.

India made it to the semi-finals of the 2018 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup yet their tame exit from the tournament against eventual runners-up England showed that they had some ways to go in the shortest format of the game, despite the team showing a marked improvement in one-day international cricket.

A poor showing with the bat saw the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side bundled out for just 112, a target which England chased down in less than 18 overs. The fall-out from this loss was massive, not least because reports of a rift between senior batsman Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar came to dominate the news and eventually led to the latter’s contract not being renewed.

Since then, under new coach WV Raman, there has been a focus on trying to change the team’s style of play and put more of an emphasis on a fearless batting approach. The work has yielded results but it remains to be seen whether this new-look youthful side will succeed where the previous side – which was more experienced – failed.

A look back at India’s results since that semi-final loss shows a gradual growth in terms of performances yet old problems remain and often come to the fore when least needed.

Back-to-back Series Whitewashes

India’s first T20I series after the T20 World Cup was a tough one – a three-match assignment away to New Zealand. Despite commendable performances from Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues, the side could not register a single win in the series with the home side completing a clean sweep.

The main issue for the side was an over-reliance on their top batsmen – the fact that Harmanpreet had a forgettable series and that Mithali didn’t even feature until the final match didn’t help matters.

The lower-middle order didn’t contribute enough and as a result, India suffered whenever any of the top batsmen failed to produce the goods.

Mandhana

This was followed by a home series against England featuring three matches, with Mandhana handed the reins in the absence of Harmanpreet. The added responsibility did seem to affect her batting – she made 2 and 12 in the first two matches – but she produced a valiant 58 in the final match.

India experimented with youngster Harleen Deol atop the order but the Punjab batsman struggled against the English bowlers. The English batsmen were also more consistent and as such they too were able to register a 3-0 clean sweep over the hosts.

South Africa, West Indies Series Wins Provide Relief

India’s next T20I assignment was a six-match series against South Africa at home. The second and third match of the series were washed out, yet the result – a 3-1 win for the home team – boded well for them. It was also the series that saw the emergence of one Shafali Verma.

The 15-year old added a different dimension to the Indian batting line-up atop the order with her ability to hit the ball a long way and score quickly. This was best demonstrated by her 33-ball 46 in the second T20I.

While she didn’t deliver in the other matches, there were enough signs of good things to come from the promising youngster. To aid matters, various members of the batting line-up chipped in as and when necessary.

Shafali’s star shone brightest during the five-match T20I series that followed. She scored commanding half-centuries in the first and second T20I, winning the Player of the Match in the opening game of the series.

Shafali Verma

The series also saw India’s spinners do plenty of damage to the opposition, giving a clear indicator on how India planned to approach T20Is going forward – a top-heavy batting line-up that could score at will as well as a spin-heavy attack that could both stem the flow of runs and take regular wickets.

India won the series 5-0 and it seemed like a coming-of-age moment for a side that featured plenty of young players.

Old Demons Resurface in Tri-series

India’s final preparation before the T20 World Cup came in the form of a tri-series featuring England and hosts Australia. The series was seen as a tough test for the young side ahead of the tournament.

Since each side won and lost two games, the finalists were decided on the basis of Net Run Rate (NRR). Australia and India contested the final and India ended up coming short by 11 runs, although the loss will have hurt more given the manner in which it took place.

Chasing 156 to win, India had started well and looked in control of things. Harmanpreet and Mandhana were at the crease and only 41 runs were needed off 35 balls, with India having seven wickets in hand.

Mandhana’s dismissal, however, triggered a collapse and India were left wondering what could have been. While the side was relatively different, it brought back memories of the collapse in the final of the 50-over World Cup in 2017.

(Image: Twitter/@ICC)

To make matters worse, India’s two losses in the series – one each to England and Australia – followed similar patterns. The middle-order did not do enough and the pressure on Mandhana, Harmanpreet, Shafali and Jemimah to conjure up some individual brilliance was evident.

India’s wins over England and Australia saw these four batsman do the bulk of the scoring. Given that both Shafali and Jemimah are young and still learning their trade, putting such pressure on them and expecting top-level consistency is a questionable strategy.

The bowling unit generally looked the part through the series, although how they fare in batter-friendly conditions that will offer little assistance to spin bowling remains to be seen.

In conclusion, India’s chances of ending the tournament victorious will depend largely on how well their top batsman fare – but also on the overall temperament of the side and their ability to fight back when the chips are down.

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