A Radha Yadav-inspired spin masterclass followed by a Shafali Verma carnage helped India get the better of Sri Lanka in a stunning fashion, thus ending the group stage unbeaten. However, the form of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur continue to be a big concern for the Indian side.
Shafali Verma (9/10): How??? Tell me How.. How could a 16-year-old hit those shots with effortless ease? If there has been a real child prodigy, this is it, India. Shafali Verma, once again, took the stage to showcase her amazing ability, smashing all the Lankan bowlers to smithereens. The ferocity with which she played those shots on the on-side, by making room for herself and then moving to the sixth stump, was sheer quality on display. Not for nothing is she being labelled a Virender Sehwag prototype - it was re-established once again.
Smriti Mandhana (5/10): The time is just not right for Smriti Mandhana. A player, who defined consistency in women’s cricket, is no longer the same player, at least for the time being. After getting off to a great start, against Shashikala Siriwardene, the southpaw fell prey to the trap created by the experienced Udeshika Prabodhani for a 12-ball 17. The fact that Shafali was taking the responsibility of attacking at the other end, Mandhana could have been more sensible in her approach.
Harmanpreet Kaur (5/10): A severely out-of-form Indian skipper came out to bat at No.3, probably in order to find the sweet-spot once again, but still runs eluded him. The start was pretty much in sync with her Harmanster image but that was short-lived than Virat Kohli’s stay in the middle at the Hagley Oval today. It has gone beyond just a fatigued mindset but Harmanpreet can’t afford to continue like this in the semi-final and beyond.
Jemimah Rodrigues (7.5/10): Dropping down to No.4, Rodrigues ensured there would be no further casualty for the Indian team to finish the group-stage unbeaten. It is an interesting facet of her batting that she, somehow, learnt the trade of batting in different gears, especially with Harmanpreet Kaur struggling for form. Rodrigues performed her job well and good.
Deepti Sharma (6.5/10): Deepti Sharma might not produce prodigious turn with her bowling but everyone and their grandmother will agree that it is mighty effective. Even though Chamari Athapaththu seemed like a girl on a mission, Sharma curbed her instincts to a fair margin by landing the ball full and that saw the back of Umesha Thimashini in her second over. By coming round the wicket against Harshitha Madavi, she unsettled the partnership, forcing Athapaththu to take more risk upfront. Another trick up her sleeve will be extremely beneficial to become India’s chief strike bowler in the powerplay.
Taniya Bhatia (7.5/10): The wicket-keeper didn’t get the opportunity to showcase her batting display but it was some keeping in Melbourne. She was quick-footed, equally effective against left-arm spinners and leg-spinner, ensuring the Lankan team had no option than leaving the balls. India should be mighty proud of having a keeper of Bhatia’s ability.
Veda Krishnamurthy (6/10): While her turn to bat didn’t arrive, she was indeed impressive on the field, with the catch that got the better of Siriwardene. It could probably be considered as one of the finest, if not the finest, in this year’s competition. Krishnamurthy was also a livewire on the field, diving around to stop many of Athapaththu’s gorgeous cover drives from reaching the boundary.
Shikha Pandey (4/10): The only pacer in the squad, Shikha Pandey should be given kudos for managing to take all the pressure single-handedly. However, that comes with a caveat as you would rarely have a partner to share those burdens and that showed in her bowling today. By mostly giving freebies outside off-stumps, Pandey let some of the momentum slip away but that was well compensated by Radha Yadav and company.
Radha Yadav (9.5/10): Radha Yadav personifies consistency for me. She has taken at least one wicket in her last 23 matches, equalling the world record by Australia’s Megan Schutt. Today, right from the outset, Yadav focused on landing the ball close to the body, forcing the Sri Lankan batsmen to choose extravagant strokes to flatter lines. Of course, she was helped by the pitch, which was turning enough from the side she was bowling, but exploiting the surface is not everyone’s cup of tea. Her four wickets were the product of keeping at it and doing the same thing that reaped dividends for you in the past - believe me, this “simple thing” is one of the toughest things to execute.
Poonam Yadav (6.5/10): Everyday is not Sunday and surely, everyday is not Poonam Yadav’s day. After putting Australia and Bangladesh under all sorts of pressure in the first two games, she took a step back today to see her younger colleagues stamping their authority. That she conceded only 20 runs in four overs despite operating mostly in the death overs talks up her quality and something India will love to see more often as they prepare for the semi-final.
Rajeshwari Gayakwad (7.5/10): Sometimes, the best thing that you can try is not trying too much. Gayakwad was never threatening, never seemed like a bowler who can extract anything off the pitch other than the bit of drift she was finding. But the beauty at times lies in that as the Bijapur lady showed today, with a wicket-maiden to cap off her first over. In the course of the game, she managed to stifle a few economical overs, while chipping in with two important wickets of Harshitha Madavi and Shashikala Siriwardene. Her spell acted as a catalyst for Yadav to attack with fluidity and not trying to stop the run-flow at all.