1.3 billion people are busy celebrating India’s maiden entry into the T20 World Cup final, but are they in the best of shapes before the final against the Aussies? Was the down-pour win satisfactory, or did it help them figure out the weakness that has been hiding beneath their incredible run?
India did thank the rains for bailing them out of the semi-final clash against England, the team that they have never beaten in the World Cup history. On 23rd July, it was England and India in the final of the Women’s ODI World Cup and India were ahead of the race for most parts in the game. When it mattered, England struck back, with the wicket of Punam Raut. Following Raut’s long walk to the dressing room, there was a different England in play and a different Anya Shrubsole.
It was the first time in the tournament, that India felt threatened that their dreams were slowly fading away after so much hard work. After, they had defeated or, I can say decimated, the Australian side in the semi-finals, on the back of Harmanpreet's swashbuckling 171*, the best in the history of World Cups. When the dreams shattered, the horror show returned, the ‘you point, I point,’ grew in multi-fold. When it came to the 2018 T20 World Cup, the team was marred amidst so much tension that their focus was off the game. But after the appointment of WV Raman, everything came back into the right frame, with the team clicking as a unit leading into the World Cup.
And what better way to start than to beat Australia at their own den. A blistering knock from Shafali Verma at the top of the order and some mystery from Poonam Yadav was all that was needed. All of that, and more, kick-started India’s perfect campaign in Australia, with wins over New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
That culminated in their run to the knockout stage or the first semi-final. But when it came to the biggest stage, their voodoo opponents, their chance to prove the entire world wrong came crashing down. Some say India were lucky to get into the final, however, were they? India go into the final without having played a single game in eight days, which is a massive disadvantage, with Australia playing as recently as Thursday.
However, that is not all! India had the best opportunity to get the monkey off their back, with a victory over England in the semis. They had the opportunity to go into the final with that spring of confidence knowing that they have it in them on the day it matters the most. It plays a huge role, given that they made light work of their group-stage encounters against Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Yet in every game, there was a pattern, which seemingly looked on the verge of haunting the team. Every single time they stepped on the field, they had a top-order that fired up instantaneously, a middle-order that was yet untested, with two of their experienced batters - Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana - not firing. Their bowling unit, too, was of a similar balance, with Poonam Yadav and Shikha Pandey being the most valuable ones. Against England, in overcast conditions, they had their nightmare right in front of them, for them to conquer, after four failed attempts to do so.
They had it right in front of them, to put past the 2017 debacle aside, step up their game and put on the show that Sydney Showground was there to witness. However, there they were, sitting with grim and yet happy faces, knowing that their passage to the final was now a ‘reality.’ Now, they will face Australia in the final, with the Australian side only beaten once in the T20 World Cup final, that too against West Indies away from home.
For India to beat Australia in the final, they will need all departments to come blazing, including their middle-order which has looked lackluster for most parts of the tournament, with only Jemimah Rodrigues putting up anything remotely resembling a fight. She did it more than once, and has, in a way, been the only shining light in the middle order.
With the ball too, they have had moments, including the encounter against New Zealand, where they have ended it too tight for their liking. In a game which was completely in their favour, they nearly turned it around to a tight-finish and looked like they had just heisted their way out to a victory.
Against Sri Lanka, they had their top-order tested, with Shafali Verma continuing to show what a young-blood could do to the team. In 2018, they had reached the semi-finals on the back of impressive performance in the group stage, led by solo-performances. However, when they reached the biggest-stage, they were undone for their own-good thanks to a bad, bad middle-order display.
North Sound, Antigua, India vs England, provided them a chance to bounce back from the nightmares of 2017. Opting to bat first, they had a decent start, with Taniya Bhatia and Smriti Mandhana scoring 43 runs for the opening wicket. Yet, when Mandhana was dismissed, Bhatia found it difficult alongside Jemimah. This time, their problems are similar, for it looks like they lack the firepower to get through once they lose Shafali.
All of this, despite putting up scores of 46, 49, 54 in the powerplay, the middle order has only taken them to 132, 116 and 142. Flashback to 2017, another thing that hurt them the most, wicket-takers in the middle over apart from Poonam Yadav. This edition, the problems remain the same, and when the opposition figures out how to tackle Poonam as New Zealand did in their encounter, the equation completely changes. When India face Australia in 2020, they would not be in the best of shape in the final, given that their last eight days were, in fact, off from the cricket field.