Since the start of 2022, every match Women in Blue played had resulted in a loss. The losing streak eventually ended when India chased the target of 252 successfully in the last ODI match of the 5 match series. The win was crucial from an Indian point of view for multiple reasons. This victory was important to boost the morale of the women stalwarts, who otherwise had a not-so-good outing. Furthermore, it will bring the Indian women's team in the right frame of mind with the grand event of the World Cup starting from 4th March.
The most pleasing factor of this victory was the contribution of the 3 most experienced batters in the Indian side, Smriti, Harmanpreet and skipper Mithali. Harman was out of form for a long time and seeing her get those runs just before the world cup, in particular, was a sight Indians loved. Smriti and Mithali have performed regularly, but rarely it happened that both of them performed well in the same match, but fortunately it happened at the right time.
Winning the toss, Sophie Devine had chosen to bat. And the captain and Amelia Kerr batted well, after losing the stalwart Suzie Bates early. But once their partnership was broken, every other batter played small cameos, but couldn't make it big. A big bonus for India was the performance of spinners on the New Zealand pitches. All the spinners, Gayakwad, Rana, Deepti and Poonam did their job to perfection.
Post that, it was the job of batters. And chase master Smriti did what she is known for. She played her natural game and took on the Kiwi bowlers. Looked like she was trying to remove her frustration of not playing the first three matches. Harman batted almost run-a-ball scoring 63, a knock which was very important for her considering her slump in form while playing for India. It was a relief to see her getting in the groove, knowing what she has done earlier in the ICC events. Mithali continued to do, what she does, scoring runs for fun. The contribution of senior-most last batters led India to a successful chase.
The victory was important for Women's cricket in India. Since 2021, when Women in Blue started to play post covid, they have only managed to win 6 matches out of the 28 matches they have played overall. Last year they won 5, with the 5th one being a memorable one, which ended the Aussie winning streak in ODI's. Everyone was hoping to see the team perform this year against Kiwis. But Kiwis had an upper hand in all the matches, they won the only T20 and was almost about to whitewash Women in Blue. Fortunately, the victory came for India.
The primary reason for the lack of performance from women in Blue is consistent and intent. The team lacked both. Too many experiments were made right in front of the world cup. And barring Smriti, Deepti and a few more players, everyone lack consistency. The fielding performance of the team was below average. Barring the superhuman catch from Harleen, nothing was worth the mention when it came to fielding. Plus, the intent seemed to be missing. It was seen when India could not defend 278 runs against Newzealand.
Another important factor is the strike rate. The strike rate is something, which is haunting India even now. On one hand, everyone is praising Mithali, and rightly so for not throwing her wicket, but her strike rate is a matter of concern for the team, as at times it also puts other players under some pressure. If it is a part of the strategy, that Mithali will hold the wicket and others will maintain the strike, then that's not working either, because the middle order is lacking in the strike rate too. These things would have mattered a lot because talented players like Jemimah Rodrigues are not a part of the world cup. But fortunately, overcoming all these issues, the victory of the Indian team is a pleasing sight.
The main goal apart from Winning the World Cup is to promote the women's game in India. There lies a bigger motive of giving equal respect to the women's team compared to the men's team. For that Women in Blue have to win matches. The glory cannot come if there are no victories. And in process of winning matches, if the short term goal of the World Cup is achieved, the long term motive to bring glory to women's cricket in India will be achieved. With this victory, the confidence of players, and hopes of billion people have gone in an upward way. As a true fan of Women's cricket, let's hope, this team with their increased confidence brings the first World Cup for the women's team in India and takes the first step to achieving the bigger motive.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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