A proud Mithali Raj admitted that nervousness of the middle and lower-order batswomen cost India the coveted World Cup.
Chasing 229, India was the favourites to win the contest at a jam-packed Lord’s when they were placed 191 for three in the 43rd over. However, the Women in Blue just could not handle the pressure from there on, as they lost their last seven wickets off just 28 runs, as England held their nerves to win their fourth World Cup title.
— ICC (@ICC) July 23, 2017
Speaking after the game, the India skipper said that her teammates were sad after the heartbreaking loss before stating that she was proud of the way the girls performed throughout the tournament to take India to its second World Cup final and gave England a run for their money in the title-decider.
“Everybody was very nervous and I think that resulted in our defeat,” she said. “The girls are sad because they have given it their all. It’s natural and it will take time. These girls have set the platform. They have opened a lot of channels for women’s cricket. They should be proud.
“As a captain, I am very proud. I have seen the changes the girls have made. I’ve seen the transition. The team still looks very confident they will be a team that other teams will be looking out for. That’s what I’m proud of. We started off well. We had a few matches in which we were defeated and we came back stronger. Unlike 2005, this went to the end. The girls gave their best,” added Mithali who was also the captain of the team that lost the final in 2005 by 98 runs against Australia.
India’s downward slide began when Anya Shrubsole ended the 53 run partnership between Punam Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy by dismissing the former for 86. Five runs later, Sushma Verma returned to the pavilion after being bowled while playing a nervous sweep while Krishnamurthy perished while slogging, leaving the team reeling at 200 for six. Shikha Pandey’s nervous run-out and Deepti Sharma’s dismissal while going for a big shot ended India’s hopes.
“The last four or five batters could not handle the pressure,” Raj said. “At one point, the game was in the balance. That is when we didn’t hold our nerve. Their bowling and fielding was really up.
“We messed it up in the end. It was a very brave inning from Punam. It’s about the experience and how composed you are. The girls weren’t experienced enough to do it. But the way they have fought all along the tournament is very heartwarming. The Indian women’s team has a very bright future,” she added.
The performance in the tournament, nevertheless, has given Mithali confidence that it is high time that women’s game makes some progress in India. The 33-year-old said the time is right to introduce a T20 league for the ladies.
“The response from the public is very positive. I’m sure BCCI is very proud of the team. When we lost the warm-up games, no one gave us the chance to reach the semi-finals,” she said. “When we lost to South Africa and Australia, no one thought we would get to the final. A team like that has come to the finals and given a good fight to the home team.
“The WBBL has given exposure to the two girls who have played [Smriti Mandhana and Kaur]. If more girls participate in such leagues, it will give them experience and help them to improve their own game. If you ask me they should have IPL because now is the right time to create that base. Women’s cricket is everywhere and they have put up a much better standard than the last World Cup,” she said.