It’s been a great day for India Down Under. And we are not talking about MS Dhoni’s men beating Australia at the MCG to go up 2-0 in the T20I series. A victory of far greater import was pulled off earlier at the same venue by the Indian women’s cricket team to record a never-before series win against Australia.
Before this series, the last time the Indian women’s team played Australia women in a bilateral T20I was back in 2012. India had been blanked in the previous four games of the series. But in the fifth, Jhulan Goswami blanked the Aussies back, taking five wickets in her four overs, and securing a lone consolation win for India. Fitting then that she should pick up the Player of the Match in a historic series win for India against Australia, in Australia.
To put this win in perspective, India had never won a bilateral series against Australia, EVER, in ANY format since the BCCI took over, home or away. It is also the first ever bilateral T20 series win outside the subcontinent for India. Before this series, the T20 head-to-head record for these two teams stood at 8-1 in favour of the Australians. Further, the Southern Stars (Australian women’s team) are the current holders of three consecutive World T20 titles. They have been on central contracts for some years now, while India have only just introduced central contracts. Most state players in Australia are contracted as well, while Indian state players earn amounts that badly need revision.
If India’s win in the first T20 took Australia off guard, the consolidation win to take the series proved it was no flash in the pan. And unlike the bowling, which has traditionally been India’s strong suit, it was the batting and fielding that stole the show.
In my preview, I predicted that if the Indian batting comes to the party, India would be competitive, despite the odds being against them. Well the batting didn’t just come to the party, it crashed it, and brought along fielding as its date.
In the first T20 at Adelaide, the Indian team chased a record 141, with nine balls to spare, despite losing Mithali Raj in the first over. Over the years, Raj has almost single-handedly carried the burden of batting on her shoulders. This win heralded the coming of age of India’s younger batters. Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy, who have been around for a few years now, played like they belonged. And Harmanpreet Kaur effortlessly carried into internationals her penchant for finishing matches in domestic cricket.
At the MCG, India improved on a good fielding show in the last game, with a brilliant catch and scintillating run out on display. The run out of Ellyse Perry by Anuja Patil in particular was an effort the best in the world would be proud of. Fielding has been area in which India have been notoriously inconsistent, so it was heartening to see the Indian women dive around for the second game in a row. Commentator Mel Jones said on air that this was the best she had ever seen India field. Ian Healy too was awash with praise for the fielding efforts, saying, “They’re really moving well these Indian fielders”.
The improvement in fielding is no doubt due to the influx of younger fitter players. While miked up in the field, Veda Krishnamurthy mentioned that though the team didn’t have a preparatory camp due to the domestic season, players had been working hard individually. The increased awareness of the importance of fitness has meant that India now have a handful of fielders who are on par with international standards. The introduction of contracts has contributed to this in some way, allowing the women to train as professionals. India may just have plugged what was for a long time a big hole in their skill sets leading up to the World T20 in March.
The timing of these performances could not have been better either. For one, they have shaken up world cricket a few months ahead of the World T20. Secondly, they have been achieved in televised matches, which will hopefully amplify the impact of the win, and show the head honchos of the BCCI that the women’s team is worth investing in. Thirdly, they will serve as a major confidence boost to the team ahead of the ODI leg of the series. The three ODIs will form a part of the ICC Women’s championship, in which India are at seventh place and badly in need of some points.
With the series ender in Sydney on Sunday, India have an unprecedented opportunity to go for a whitewash. “When you play against the best team in the world, you have to be good in all three departments,” said Jhulan Goswami while collecting her Player of the Match award. With all three departments firing well for India, Sunday promises to be another riveting encounter. With whispers of a women’s IPL on a few lips, there is everything to play for in the last televised match of this tour.
The author, Snehal Pradhan, is a former women's international cricketer and represented India in 6 ODIs and 4 T20Is. She tweets at @