India registering one sided victories. The playing XI packed with spinners. Arthritic running between the wickets. And Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami guiding the team home.
For a moment, Sunday’s Women’s Asia Cup final took me back to a brief period in the early 2000s, when the Indian women’s team was building up inertia that took them to the finals of the World Cup in 2005.
Although the supporting cast is different, some protagonists are the same. Raj and Goswami have scripted many a victory for India over the last decade, defying the advances of oppositions and age equally deftly. The two combined yet again, as India extended their unbeaten run in Asia Cups to 32 matches, and pocketed their sixth title with a 17 run victory.
It began with Raj carrying her bat through the Indian innings, to finish with a career best 73 as the other batters played spectator. She adjusted beautifully to a slow pitch and even slower bowling, as Pakistan used spin in 16 out of the 20 overs. While her opening partner Smriti Mandhana perished trying to hit the ball too hard, Raj unfurled a masterclass of how to let the ball come on to the bat. Unfazed by the fact that she alone of the top five got into double figures, she was the tree trunk the total was built around, providing both stability and growth. More so, she did not dawdle, scoring at a strike rate of 112.3, quashing, for now, concerns about that aspect of her game.
“I’ve been opening for the country for the last two years, and it took me some time to get settled in the role, but now I’m really enjoying it,” said Raj after the game.
The next batter to get into double figures was Goswami, who pushed the innings over the 120 mark. She took advantage of her tall frame and the short boundaries, clubbing two sixes in her 10-ball 17. In the process, the duo accumulated almost 75 percent of the team's runs.
They took India to 121, a tantalising score, with both teams going into the second innings fancying their chances.
Pakistan, who would have chased had their skipper Bismah Maroof called correctly, spent little time getting going. India’s decision to open with two spinners almost backfired as 13 easy runs came in the first two overs. It brought back memories of the clash between these two countries in the World T20 this year, where Pakistan raced to 39 runs in the Powerplay, which helped them win the game by the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Goswami broke the spell though, as she castled Ayesha Zafar in the third over. No self-respecting pace bowler likes to see spin at both ends with the new ball, and Goswami’s celebration when she broke the opening stand seemed to be sending a message. “The management wanted to try something different,” was all she would say about it after the game.
India’s spinners applied the screws after that and strangled the Pakistan batters, to notch up a win that was a lot more comfortable than the group match between these two teams. But there are a number of questions that sterner oppositions will happily pose.
One is the batting order. The logic that pushed Raj to the top of the order, of allowing your best batters the most overs, should be applied to Veda Krishnamurthy and captain Harmanpreet Kaur as well. On Sunday, Veda came in to bat in the 12th over, and Harmanpreet in the 14th. With little time to get their eye in, both got out playing across the line early in their innings.
Also, India’s all-rounders, Shikha Pandey and Anuja Patil are getting little game time in the middle, which should be an area of concern. Pandey has faced only 167 balls in 22 matches, while Patil has the same number from 24. (Meghana, only six matches into her career, has already faced 62.) Considering that Pandey and Patil are often at the crease in crunch situations, the more experience the team management can give them the better.
While Twitter was awash with praise for the win, the players themselves will surely be firmly grounded. After all, India were run away favorites to begin with.
Wonderful performance! Congratulations to the Indian women's team on winning #T20AsiaCup
— sachin tendulkar (@sachin_rt) December 4, 2016
What a fantastic achievement by Indian Women's Team, beating Pakistan in the finals of Women's Asia Cup. Many congrats. @BCCI
— Lt. Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) December 4, 2016
In a segment aired in the mid innings break, Pakistan’s ODI captain Sana Mir had said, “The WT20 is where I gauge the performance of my team.” With the ICC World Cup Qualifiers on the horizon, it is sound advice for India as well.
The author is a former international cricketer and now a freelance journalist. She tweets @SnehalPradhan
Updated Date: Dec 05, 2016 13:07:30 IST