Despite being played consistently in the group stages and knockout stage, Indian team fails to do well in the final. While they lost to England in the 2017 Cricket World Cup by 9 runs, they lost to Australia in the T20 World Cup earlier this year. According to former India player and outgoing national women’s team chief selector Hemlata Kala, the inability to handle pressure in big finals has kept the team away from win the ICC trophy.
“Players have to be ready to play the big games but they were not despite having a good mix of youth and experience. The batting failure also cost us. Maybe, they were under pressure,” Kala told PTI who had played 78 ODIs and 7 Tests for India. She was appointed as a selector in 2015 and later became the panel chief in 2016.
Her term as head of the selection committee witnessed a great time in women’s cricket where India reached the 2017 World Cup final. And the low point was definitely the loss to Bangladesh in the 2018 Asia Cup final.
“In 2017, it was a massive batting collapse too. We were 191 for three chasing 229 but we were not able to. There was no reason to panic but we did. We beat Australia in the semifinals with Harmanpreet playing a blinder and we also beat in the league of World T20 next year,” said Hemlata Kala.
Handling the pressure becomes an issue
While handling the pressure of the big stage remained a factor, Kala believed this team could easily beat England and Australia across two formats.
“And the issue of handling pressure remains till date though the team is fully capable of going all the way and has shown that by beating top teams (Australia and England) regularly. We tend to falter in the final, pressure has played a role in that,” she added.
With this loss in the final, the question raised on the captaincy of Harmanpreet Kaur who leads the team in the T20 format. Former India captain Shantha Rangaswamy earlier said that Kaur was more valuable as a player than the captain. Hemlata Kala, however, said that there is no other captain in the T20 team who can lead the Indian Team better than Harmanpreet Kaur.
“I don’t think there is any better leader than Harman in the current squad. Performance is different, it can go up and down, but it is equally important to have a leader in the group. She thinks like one and should continue in T20s and take over from Mithali once she retires from ODIs. That was the thinking of our panel,” added the former player.
However, she didn’t agree with the fact that India was five-six years behind Australia regarding the pool of players or training quality.
“I won’t agree with that but if it is about handling pressure in big games; Australia are used to handling pressure, we are not. We beat them in 2017 (semis), 2018 (league stage) and now also we beat them in the league stage in the last edition.
Like I said, we need to figure out how to handle pressure in finals. I am hopeful the team breaks the jinx in the 2021 ODI World Cup,” she explained.
However, Mithali Raj’s exclusion from the playing XI during the 2018 World T20 semi-final in the West Indies was the biggest controversy under Kala’s tenure.
“I can’t say much about what happened there. We have no role in selecting the 11, our job is to pick the best 15,” she said.
While talking about Shafali Verma, who made her debut as a 15-year-old last year, she said that the teenager was destined for greatness. Verma has impressed everyone with her free-flowing batting.
“She will be the queen of women’s cricket globally provided she continues to work hard on her game. She needs to work on her fitness and she knows that. When I saw her for the first time in a U-23 game in Rajkot last year, I was sure she would go on to win the World Cup for India. She almost did that for us in Australia,” said Hemlata Kala.
India are lacking in the pace department
Indian Team are much dependent on spinners, although they have pace bowlers like Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Mansi Joshi and a few.
However, Kala said India needed to groom more fast bowlers for the future as Goswami has already announced her retirement from the T20 format and at the end of her career in ODI format as well.
She added, “Pacers are there but not of the calibre of Jhulan [Goswami] and Shikha [Pandey]. You need time to groom them. India A tours have started now, so that will also help.
If they had started in 2017, maybe we would have got more medium pacers by now. Every year there is a World Cup, then we also end up going mostly with the experienced than a complete fresher, unless she is an outstanding player like Shafali.”
According to Hemlata Kala, a four-team IPL would be great for the team now.
“BCCI has done a good job with the Women’s T20 Challenge but I don’t think we are ready for more than four teams. It will take another two-three years before we can have a six-team IPL. It is not just about playing, standard of cricket should be high and entertaining so it attracts the fans. So many people started watching the women’s game after Harman scored 171 in the 2017 World Cup semifinal,” she concluded.