India who qualified for atleast Semi-Final in all the ICC World Cups after the 2016 World T20, failed to do so in the 2022 Cricket World Cup. The Finalist of the last edition lost their last group match, a nail betting encounter against South Africa to lose their place. India were the finalist of World T20 in 2020, lost the match to Australia, and has won 7 out of 8 ODI series from 2017 till the pandemic hit.
Despite their achievement, they fell victim to a worldwide pandemic, which made a gendered game more gendered. And once their series resumed, it witnessed the shift of the momentum, that they have built for the last 4 fours years after the 2017 World Cup. They lost all the series they played in 12 months prior to the World Cup. However, known as the big stage players going by their last three World Cups it was expected that India would do well. But all the boxes did not click when it was needed.
Young Bloods Finds Their Groove:
After their series defeat against South Africa, many experts have raised questions over teen prodigy Shafali Verma’s exclusion from the longer formats of the game. If there was anything against her candidature, there were doubts about her temperament in the longer formats of the game. But in 5 innings in England, including Tests, Verma who has been India’s go-to person in T-20s with a career strike rate of 149 in 22 matches, proved her critiques wrong.
After the 2017 World Cup India has used 8 different opening pairs in 40 innings prior to the World Cup. While India went with Punam Raut and Smriti Mandhana in 2018 (351 runs among them in 6 innings with 4 half-century stands), they quickly moved towards the Maharashtrian duo of Jemimah Rodrigues and Smriti Mandhana. Raut was pushed back to three. Both of them added 556 runs in 13 innings with 3 centuries and one half-century-stand between them. More importantly, they scored at a brisk pace of 5.38 runs per over, Though in the absence of Smriti, Priya Punia opened for India, and her relatively slow approach didn’t earn much praise.
Indian openers failed miserably against South Africa. Jemimah looked out of touch, coming from the break of one year. In the three innings that she opened for India, the side lost the first wicket at 16,22,0. While she scored 1,9,0 in three matches. India went with Priya Punia in the remaining matches. India fielded Verma along with Smriti Mandhana against England, and in the first two matches, they added 23 and 56 runs.
Moreover, she shaded away her preferable pitch-hitting avatar, playing the initial overs more cautiously. In the last game, where India chased down a remarkable win, based on Mithali Raj’s bat, Smriti and Shafali added 46 runs in 9 overs. Better than the previous series. After scoring 15 in the first match, Verma looked in good touch with her 44 before getting stumped.
A dual against Katherine Brunt exposed Verma’s uneasiness against the short pitch balls. And to tackle that she was often seen standing on the backfoot, expecting short pitch balls every time. This approach sometimes saw her fall in many fuller balls as well as against the sharp rising deliveries. In the first match, she fell to Darcie Brown, trying to pull one after scoring 8. It was followed by an almost run-a-ball 22. In the third ODI where we saw a more defensive approach from Verma earned her first ODI half-century. Moreover, in the last two matches, Smriti and Shafali added a 50 run partnership against Australia. 325 runs in 8 innings with 3 half-century stands, India decided to put her along with Mandhana for the opening match against Pakistan.
That ploy did not come off. A 6 ball duck and India lost their first wicket in the 3rd over. She lost her place to Yastika Bhatia who was promoted up the order. Verma was again included in the side against Australia, in a hope that her power-hitting from the emancipation of the innings would put Australia on the backfoot. Though she started well, her 16 balls 12 ended as she fell again To Darcie Brown and India ultimately fell a bowler short while defending the total. However, Verma did justice to her reputation in the last two matches. Her run-a-ball 42 on a tricky wicket, where others find it difficult to score helped India to find momentum. Mandhana and Verma added 74 runs in the 15 overs for the first wicket.
Verma carried her form in that last match against South Africa as well. In a virtual knockout game against the best fast bowling attack, she took the attack to the opposition. The openers added 91 runs for the first wicket in 15 overs. Though the communication error between the openers ended Verma’s 46 balls 53 which was crafted by 8 boundaries, it reaffirms the ability this kid has. One of the highlights of her innings was the three boundaries she hit in a single over of Shabnim Ismail, the fastest bowler around.
One of the most pertaining questions has been India’s treatment regarding the number three batter. While In most of the time after the 2017 World Cups, Punam Raut batted at number three for India, her strike rate became the area of concern for many. To many experts, it also added an extra bit of pressure for number 4, Mithali Raj who is a slow starter. However, if we look at numbers Punam Raut has scored with an average of 50 with 6, 50+ scores, and her tally of 602 runs is only 2nd to Meg Lanning’s 911.
Punam Raut’s low strike rate and Jemimah’s lack of run at number three led to the inclusion of Yastika Bhatia and she did justice to that. After scoring 35 and 3 in the first two matches she crafted her 64 with 9 boundaries in 69 balls against Australia. Her 91 runs in 4 matches against New Zealand were not of her best but she has proved her point.
Playing her first World Cup, Yastika was promoted up the order from the 2nd match. That gave the side to privilege to play an extra bowling option. A 59 ball 22 against New Zealand was followed by a much more aggressive 21 ball 31 against West Indies. 49 run was added in the 7th over removed she was dismissed. After the England match, she was reverted back to her trusted batting order and she hit 2 back-to-back half-centuries against Australia and Bangladesh. After losing two early wickets against Australia she added 130 runs with Mithali Raj for the third wicket. It gave India a base upon which pitch hitters helped India to go past the 275 runs mark.
On a tricky wicket against Bangladesh, where stalwarts like Mithali Raj. Mandhana or even Harmanpreet failed to score run with ease, Yatsika’s patient half-century and a couple of partnerships took the score beyond 150. The late blast from Pooja and Rana meant India reached 229. In her first World Cup 178 runs with 2 half-centuries, Yastika gave assurance that she can be a solution to India’s long search for no 3.
Richa Ghosh came up the ranks in the New Zealand series. Though there have been questions about her keeping skills, she has earned praises for her fearless batting. India has found a much-deserving destructive lower-order bat in her. Ghosh in the 2nd match came out to bat in the 29th over and added 108 runs in 17 overs along with Mithali Raj. That included 65 runs from 64 balls from her. Her maiden ODI half-century. Again in the 4th match, India lost 4 wickets in just 19 runs, and Ghosh became the fastest Indian to score a half-century, her 2nd of the series. Apart from Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh who has been on the T-20 side for some time, made her debut in the longer formats against Australia.
India has struggled with a wicketkeeper batter for a long time. Taniya Bhatia though has been flawless in her tenure, she was not that prominent with the bat. Apart from hitting big her abilities to find the gaps and rotate the strike makes her a good middle order bat. Though there are areas in which she needs to work regarding her wicket keeping, with time she can be the go-to player, India has been looking for. Prior to the World Cup, she had scored with an average of 44 in 7 innings.
But in the World Cup, she only scored 81 runs in 7 innings. Apart from 33 and 26 against England and Bangladesh, she failed to go past the double-figure mark. Though she picked up 13 scalps behind the wicket, the highest in the Tournament, going past the likes of Amy Jones and Alyssa Healy, her lack of runs hurt India at the lower order.
Harmanpreet Kaur Continues Her World Cup Juggernaut:
After the 2017 World Cup, Harmanpreet’s form went downwards. Despite some 30s and 40s in the crucial juncture, she had only 2 half-centuries in 26 innings prior to the 4th match of the New Zealand series when she was dropped from the side. She admitted she was going into her shell when she was struggling with form. One of her biggest supporters Daina Eduji also prescribed dropping her as the stalwart of the Indian cricket felt that Harman has been surviving on that knock.
Harman also felt that her 171* actually created a lot of expectations. And her 30-40 was not enough to match that expectation. While going into the shells, she decided to speak to Dr. Mugdha Bavare, the mental-health conditioning coach who is travelling with the team. She wanted a clearer mind before going to World Cup and taking the psychologist helped her to overcome the ‘off-form’.
In the very next match, Harmanpreet Kaur made her worth count. Chasing 252 runs to win, Harmanpreet was sent two down, in the 18th over. Harman who got out to Fran Jonas, the teenager, in the 2nd ODI, was cautious against the spinners at the beginning of her innings. Harmanpreet used the sweep to good effect for most of her innings. Anything remotely in her arc and around the middle and leg was swept away towards the square leg as she kept the runs flowing while rotating the strike.
Both of them added 64 in 11 overs to steer the Indian innings. Harman completed her 50 in 58 balls. Mithali Raj who joined her, added 72 along with her before Harman got out to Rowe. India went on to win by 6 wickets. Harmanpreet showed the sign of coming back to touch. That match was followed by the practice match against South Africa, where Kaur, hit a century. In the first match against Pakistan in World Cup, Harman fell again cheaply to the spinner. India was staggering at 50 for three in the 20th over when she came out to bat. Chasing a modest total of 261, she took 7 balls to get on the mark, as India was bottled up by the Kiwi bowlers.
As the asking run rate crept in and all batters struggled either to hit a boundary to find the gaps to rotate the strike, Kaur’sfirst boundary came in her 17th ball when she send Jensen behind the square. Despite wickets falling around her that did not stop her from rotating the strike or sending Amelia Kerr or Frances Mackay to the boundaries.
Even after India lost their 7th, Harmanpreet Kaur moved closer towards her half-century by muscling Hanna Rowe to the deep midwicket boundary. But the over that stood out in the entire Indian innings was the 43rd over of NZ. Jess Kerr who went for 20 in her 6 overs including a wicket, was brought back into the attack. Though Amelia took revenge for the assault her sister faced by removing Kaur, but not before a composed 71 from 63 balls, the only silver lining in a 62 run defeat.
That inning was followed by another class action against West Indies. Came out to bat in the 15th over, Harmanpreet Kaur hit 109 from 107 balls. A century came after almost 4 years. A record partnership with Smriti Mandhana leads India to their highest run in a World Cup match. Created with 10 boundaries and 2 sixes, Kaur hit her 3rd century in World Cups, the highest by Indians.
After a quiet outing against England, Harmanpreet once came out with a blazing blade against the mighty Australian. After the century stands among Yastika and Mithali, Harmanpreet applied the finishing touch to take the total to 277. 47 ball 57 came from her bat and India managed to score 52 runs in their last 5 overs. Alana King and TMac were the worst sufferers against Harmann’s swashbuckling batting.
318 runs with a century and two half-centuries in 7 innings ended with an unbeaten 57 ball 48. In the last match against South Africa, which turn out to be a virtual knout out, India was in a comfortable position after the 40 overs. However, Ismail and Co made a comeback in tha last overs while Harry failed to increase the run rate, she is known for. While it seemed like India would go past the 300 runs mark, disciplined bowling was restricted it to 270. Her lack of touch with the bat was substantiated by her bowling and fielding effort.
A sharp throw from her towards the strikers’ end saw the downfall of Lee at the beginning of the innings. Despite losing wicket early, Lara and Laura put up a partnership of 125 runs for the 2nd wicket. While Indian bowlers failed to check the runs in the upfront, Kaur was introduced into the attack in the 26th over. And it turned the match in favour of India. A sharp turn from outside off shuttered the middle stump of Laura Wolvaardt who was batting on 80. Sune Luss lost her wicket, trying to nudge the ball in the leg side. 2/42 in the 8 over along with three runouts was the silver lining in the hostile condition. She even took the catch in the 4th ball of the last over, off du Preez, which turned out to be a no-ball.
All-rounders Contributed To The Cause:
The lack of proper all-rounders in the set-up has hunted the Indian side for the last years. Though Deepti Sharma contributed whenever asked, the lack of pitch hitters who can contribute with the balls or vice versa made Indian batting depend on the top four. But in this World Cup all-rounders like Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana’s contribution to the all won matches.
In the match against Pakistan, India was 114/6 in the 34th over. Pooja joined Sneh Rana in the middle. What followed later was a record partnership of 122 runs in 16 overs. While Indian big names failed to score runs freely, this duo, playing their World Cup first time, hit 12 boundaries together. Rana scored an unbeaten 53 from 48 balls while Pooja 67 from 59 balls. India at one point while looked like might reach 150 only, reached 244. Rana later picked up the wicket of Omaima Sohail and Nashra Sandhu in her spell of 9 overs.
In the match against New Zealand, Pooja Vastrakar’s death bowling earned praise while she claimed the 4 wickets in her 10 overs. Her scalps included Devine, Satterthwaite, Tahuhu and Kerr. Her pinpoint line and length restricted NZ to 260, despite it looking like NZ will go past 300 at one point.
Chasing more than 300 runs to win Matthews and Dottin was cruising along in the 13th over. Rana came into the attack in the 13th over and she got a wicket in her first over. It was a full ball on the leg stump. Dottin tried the hard sweep but managed to get only a top-edge. The fielder took it comfortably at short fine leg. West Indies was 100/1 and they got lost their last 9 wickets in 62 runs. India went on to win by 155 runs.
Matthews who was the only hope and keeping a tap on the chase was also removed by her. A 36 ball 43 came to end when she went to cut a fuller ball against Sneh Rana. A catch was well taken by Richa Ghosh behind the wicket. Sneh Rana was the pick off the bowlers with 3/22 in her 57 balls. She conceded only 1 boundary, the lowest among all the bowlers and the 41 dots was the 2nd highest among them. Rana again picked up 4/20 against Bangladesh,
While Vastrakar scored 156 runs with a strike rate of 98, Rana chipped in with 101 runs with a 90 strike rate. Both of them picked up 10 wickets with an economy of less than 5 runs an over. If they get enough of the matches and start to play more consistently, this duo can solve another area of concern.
Despite the positives like Smriti Mandhana’s run in the World Cups, unlike her previous out like or those mentioned before, India failed to reach the Semifinals. One needs to pick up 10 wickets to win the match. India failed to do that against the SENA countries. Spinners once again became the area of concern in the matches India lost. They neither picked up wickets in the middle overs nor stopped the run flowing. The no-balls continued to haunt India in this World Cup.
The batting order has been reshuffled continuously. Sometimes they went with Deepti Sharma at no 3. As that ploy did not give much success they went to trust Yastika. But that cut out one bowling option for them. India failed to find the right balance even after getting 5 matches prior to the World Cup. Their running between the wicket and dot ball consumption again took the upper hand. Catches have been dropped in a crucial juncture of the game which cost them the game. While two more big events like Commonwealth Games and T-20 World Cups were reduced for the next season, all these issues need to be addressed soon.