CHENNAI: Over the last five Tests that the Indian women’s team has played, the girls have registered three wins and two draws. It is a good sequence of results, isn’t it? Now consider the fact that those five Tests have come over a period of 15 years, and it is simply remarkable that they have been able to step up in the longest format despite getting so few opportunities to don the whites.
The latest result, a draw against England in the one-off Test, came in a game where India seemed down and out after being bundled out for 231 in the first innings and asked to follow on. But the debutants in particular – Shafali Verma and Sneh Rana deserve a special mention – rose to the occasion and helped the visitors save it.
Skipper Mithali Raj – who had a subdued time with the bat in both innings – couldn’t be prouder of the team’s performance. While 17-year-old Shafali has rightly grabbed the plaudits for her scores of 96 and 63, the performances of the likes of Sneh, Deepti Sharma and Taniya Bhatia highlight the presence of a talent pool that should serve women’s cricket for years to come. With India due to play a pink-ball Test against Australia in Perth in September, the signs are encouraging.
“The biggest learning is that there are other players who can stand up for the team and deliver when it is required. Apart from Shafali, the lower middle-order played a very crucial role. These girls have shown that even with a lack of practice with the red ball, they can stand up to perform for India. That confidence is what we will be carrying into the next Test,” said Mithali.
According to the 38-year-old, most of the youngsters in the team have been able to gain exposure by playing in overseas T20 leagues like the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. Later in the summer, Shafali, Deepti, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues are slated to play in ‘The Hundred’ in England. Even though this was their first Test in seven years, the fact that that they are playing a lot more 50-over and T20 games is benefiting them.
“Over these last seven years, there have been T20 leagues in different countries like Australia and England. These young players have exposure of playing in different conditions even if it is the one-day or T20 format. When they come in for a Test now, all they have to do is tune their mindset,” she explained, “And I believe that given more opportunities, the team will become even stronger. I have never felt we have lacked talent or skill.”
Shafali had been surprisingly left out of the ODI squad for India’s home series against South Africa in March, but Mithali is confident that she will now be one of the batting mainstays.