Since 2017, Team India has been to three finals in multi-nation tournaments, and on all three occasions, they have faltered to end as the second-best team in the competition. In the 2017 ODI World Cup final, Mithali Raj and her team lost to England by 9 runs. In the 2020 T20I Word Cup, Harmanpreet Kaur and her girls were demolished by Australia by 85 runs. And the most recent fate came in the 2022 Commonwealth Games final where Australia eked out a 9-run win against them. Except for the 2020 T20I World Cup final, the other title round had India making a match of it, and was in a strong position to force a win. But India faltered, and hence, is yet to land a major trophy that can spur a movement back home.
So, what ails Team India when it comes to the all-important final?
Choking at big junctures
It happens to all, not only sports teams. It happens with people appearing for exams, interviews, and other important events. They get overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation and fail to give their best. It happens with the South Africa men’s cricket team as they have lost numerous finals despite being the best team in the league phase.
India too is under this bane. They just cannot seem to avoid getting overawed by the enormity of the final and fail to land the killer punch. This has helped Australia in 2022, and England in 2017 get out of jailbreak and post thrilling wins when they were facing defeat in the title round. It’s a psychological thing where sportspersons or teams go through these moments. A mental conditioning coach would help India pass these hurdles in the future.
In the two finals that India lost closely, the opponents showed great self-belief. Never ever in the defence did England and Australia show any signs of panic that they are facing defeat. Instead, the panic was written all over India. The two opponents showed great self-belief that they can win in any situation, and India just played into their hands. India just could not shake off their lack of self-belief and suffered spectacular collapses in their own muddled minds.
Panic. Panic. And panic…
In the two heartbreaking losses in the 2017 ODI WC and 2022 CWG final, India was actually cruising to the win but then they panicked and lost wickets in a heap to be bowled out just 9 runs short each time.
The panic is visible in the way India collapsed. In the CWG 2022 final, the collapse of the last 8 wickets for 34 runs was their third worst in T20Is. The top 2 worst are 8/23 vs England in the 2018 T20I World Cup semis and 8/33 vs New Zealand in 2019. This collapse is from the 3rd to the 10th wicket. In the 2017 ODI World Cup loss to England, India lost their last 7 wickets for 28 runs to lose by 9 runs.
In the 2020 T20I World Cup, they were just blown away by the mighty Aussies. But a collapse was also seen, with India losing their last 5 wickets for 11 runs to lose by 85 runs.
Remember the story of the hare and tortoise. India seems to be the hare here, losing focus when the finishing line was near and dropping the guards when they should have been ruthless enough to bat the teams out of the final.
Lacking a finisher
In the two losses in 2017 and 2022, India lacked a finisher who could take the team across the finish line. But India didn’t learn its lessons post the 2017 loss, and the 2022 result was not a surprise. India needs to groom a finisher who will especially get those big hits going from the word go in the death overs and keep her calm to take the team to the target.
The No. 9 curse for India
India once again ended runners-up in a multi-nation tournament after Australia defeated Harmanpreet Kaur and her girls in the 2022 Commonwealth Games final. It was a close finish where Australia held their nerves to beat India by 9 runs. In fact, India was cruising at one stage, at 118/2 in the 15th over, with two set batswomen in Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues.
But the two players fell in successive overs to derail the chase. The two were out to some rash shots. Deepti Sharma gave some hope but it was too much to do in the end. India’s strategy was also questionable as they sent Pooja Vastrakar ahead of Deepti, and Yastika Bhatia refused a single in the last over. But it was all over when the last batswoman Bhatia fell LBW when 10 runs were needed off 4 balls. And India fell short by just 9 runs.
The number 9 has been a jinx for Team India as this figure is common to India’s recent multi-nation tournament knockouts. Let’s have a look.
In the 2017 ODI World Cup final at Lord’s in England, India fell 9 runs short of equalling the score. Also, India was wrapped up for 219 while chasing 229 for a win. If you check out, the number 9 is prevalent in both the target and the score India ended up with. Once again in the 2020 T20I World Cup final, India was bowled out for 99 – a double 9 – the unluckiest number for Team India so far. In the 2022 CWG Games, India once again has to settle for the second position in the table after losing to Australia by exactly 9 runs.
Well, it will be interesting to see how Team India will manage to break their jinx in future!