July 2015. Bangalore.
The old India had conceded the ICC Women's Championship games to New Zealand 1-2. There were still two matches to go in the series. In the first of these, the Black Caps scored 220.
The old India would have gotten only around 180 for five or six wickets, and surrendered the series. But they didn’t. They beat New Zealand by eight wickets with more than five overs remaining. Then they won the next game, by nine wickets, and came from behind to seal the series.
This was not the old India. This was the new India.
January 2016. The new India went to Australia. The new India played three T20s against the world champions. The new India beat them 2-1. In their own back yard.
This was definitely the new India.
February 2016. The new India blanked Sri Lanka at home. 6-0.
March 2016. The new India won their warm-up games of the WT20. The new India scored a record 163 against Bangladesh.
The new India took the field against Pakistan. They lost two early wickets.
Then they became the old India.
They offered dead defensive strokes, instead of dabbing the ball softly and taking singles. They didn’t run the first run hard enough. Their shots went straight to the fielders, not beside or over them. They let the bowlers dictate terms, on a wicket with no demons. They took their time after a wicket fell. Then they took their time even when no wicket fell.
The new India was expected to easily surpass 106 runs, which was the highest total ever achieved in T20Is between these teams. Instead they made seven for two in six overs. The lowest ever power play score in T20Is.
The new India didn’t bat on Saturday, at the Kotla. The old India did.
The new India bats fearlessly. Like the catchers don’t exist. Aggressively. They slap the ball as if it’s an eve teaser. Positively. Like the blood groups. But for a while, the new India forgot they were the new India. They went back to the old India. Where they didn’t know how to take cheeky singles. Where they froze under pressure. Where Mithali Raj was expected to make all the runs. Where she batted weighed down by a cape of expectations.
Pakistan were not being the new Pakistan. They were being the old Pakistan. The same Pakistan that had beaten India in the WT20 in 2012. The same way. They bowled on one side of the wicket. They bowled a lot of spin. They fielded like the future of the game in their country depends on them. It does. They were same old Pakistan. And they made the new India, the old India.
Veda Krishnamurthy had not forgotten about the new India. She tried to remind Harmanpreet how the new India bats. Fearless, aggressive, positive. But it was too late for Harmanpreet. She was too far down the old road, and could not find the new one. So Veda did it all by herself.
Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey joined her. They remembered too. Together they tried to remind Pakistan why India were favourites. They tried to find the new women's team again. They tried to recall the password they had been using for the last six months. After a few tries, they did. They scored 69 in the last 10 overs.
But they remembered too late.
The old India was a gun bowling side, excelling in defending small targets. But for a while, the bowlers forgot who the old India was as well. It took Jhulan Goswami’s four overs and an athletic catch to remind them. It took Mithali’s multiple dives and screamer at cover to remind them. It took the old guard to remind them about the new India. They remembered. Then they forgot again. They remembered again. Then they forgot again.
There is no new Pakistan. Pakistan were being the old Pakistan. Boundary, suicidal run, boundary, wicket. Hope, certainty, horror, despair. They kept at it. While India kept remembering and forgetting. Pakistan were just being. They were ahead. They were behind. They were winning. They were losing. They were exploding. They were imploding.
Then, finally, when the old guard were done playing their hands, the new India remembered. They remembered who they were. They remembered how to play. And they didn’t forget again. The new kids started fielding like the old guard. They got run outs. They got direct hits. They got the smiles. They got pumped. They got back in the game.
And then it rained.
They remembered too late.