Indian women”s cricket did not receive as much attention earlier as it has received on 23rd July 2017, when the elves led by “never-say-die” Mithali Raj took on a stronger England in the title clash for ICC Women”s World Cup played at Lord”s.
At the beginning of the tournament, not many gave a chance for Team India to go beyond the league stage.
However, the “Girls in Blue” started their campaign in style, defeating the hosts by 35 runs, as the openers, Punam Raut (86), Smriti Mandhana (90) and the skipper Raj (71) set the winning tone while the bowlers Dipti Sharma and Shikha Pandey helped in containing the batters.
Thereafter there was no “looking back” with the Indian eves going on to win the next three games against West Indies, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
The winning streak, however, was halted by the South Africans, who won by a huge margin of 115 runs. Australians “rubbed more salt”, registering an 8-wicket victory.
The ultimate league game against New Zealand was a “do or die” for Team India, as a win would provide them a berth in the KO round.
Mithali”s girls won the encounter in style, with the skipper herself registering a well made century (109 runs off 123 balls) ably supported by Harmanpreet Kaur (60 runs off 90 balls) and Veda Krishnamurthy (70 off 45 balls).
Rajeshwari Gayakwad (5/15) and Dipti Sharma (2/26) ensured a huge 186 runs win for the team and earned a place in the semi- finals.
The Indian eves got an opportunity to take revenge for their league round defeat against Australia.
Kaur continued from where she left in the game against the Kiwis and played the innings of her life, notching up an unbeaten 175* runs off just 115 balls and rescued the team from a precarious situation of 101 runs for the loss of 3 wickets.
Her marathon innings helped India to set up a target of 282 runs for the Aussies.
With the batters having done their job, the bowlers also rose to the occasion. Jhulan Goswami (2/35), Shikha Pandey (2/17) and Dipti Sharma (3/59) ensured a safe passage into the finals for India, by restricting the Aussies, 36 runs short of the target.
The final encounter between India and England at Lord”s was a FULL HOUSE affair, with every seat taken up.
Batting first England managed to put up 228/7 in 50 overs, with Jhulan Goswami (3/23) and Poonam Yadav (2/36) inflicting the maximum damage.
Chasing 229 for a win and creating history, Indians fell short by a mere 9 runs.
Mandhana and Mithali failed to take off while Punam Raut (86) and Kaur (51) tried to provide some oxygen. Even a rearguard action by Veda Krishnamurthy (35) could not help the team face the eventuality.
The very brittle lower-order succumbed to pressure and it was all over when Gayakwad was bowled by Shrubsole in the fourth delivery of the 49th over.
While the Indian girls lost the plot, they have definitely left a “long-lasting” impression in the minds of the cricket-lovers all over the world.
Though the Indian skipper, Mithali Raj (the world”s leading run-scorer in ODIs) and Jhulan Goswami (the world”s leading wicket-taker in ODIs) at 34 years of age each, may not be seen donning the Indian colours in the next edition of the World Cup, they can definitely walk with their “head high” for the wonderful service they have rendered to women”s cricket, in general, and to Indian women”s cricket in particular.