Commonwealth Games 2022: India’s silver in cricket a promise to build on for the future

While there are things that Harmanpreet and Co needs to address, the way they fought through after the early exit in the World Cup in March was remarkable.
Members of Indian team celebrate after receiving silver medals after the women's cricket T20 final match between Australia and India at Edgbaston. (Photo | AP)
Members of Indian team celebrate after receiving silver medals after the women's cricket T20 final match between Australia and India at Edgbaston. (Photo | AP)

CHENNAI: It was going to be history either way. Whether India beat Australia in the final or not, Harmanpreet Kaur and her brigade had already made their mark in the women’s cricket’s debut at the Commonwealth Games. But that’s not all they wanted. They wanted more. They wanted the Indian national anthem to be played as they took to the podium.

As India lost eventually by a meagre nine runs, finishing with silver, the reactions from the players across the podium were different. Some seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, some seemed happy, but at the corner of the line was Harmanpreet, whose body language summed up the emotions of not just the team, but the millions of fans who were cheering for them.

She was trying to smile, but the hurt was visible. She has been here before not just once, but twice. Five years ago in England and two years ago in Australia, moments that could have turned things for good for women’s cricket in India. Despite making history, her anguish was visible. This is not to say that the other players weren’t hurt. From the moment they left for England, every player in the Indian contingent had spoken about going for gold and nothing else.

But given where she is in her career and having been through a decade in international cricket, watching the women’s sport transform from when she started, it seemed like the loss hurt her a bit more. Especially after the way India crumbled since her dismissal. To be precise, they lost the last eight wickets for 34 runs.

“Every time in big finals, we make the same mistakes again and again (with the bat), that is something we have to improve. We don't do these mistakes in the league phase or in bilaterals. That is blocking our mind somewhere," an emotional Harmanpreet said after the match.

Make no mistake, there are so many positives for this Indian team to take. Whether it’s the rise of Renuka Singh Thakur or the consistent aggression the top-order has shown in this format, or the guile of the Indian spinners or the top-notch fielding they displayed against Australia in the final. It was one of those days where India truly outfielded their opponents. And to win silver in their maiden CWG appearance after the early exit in the World Cup in March is a great achievement nonetheless.

That said, when push came shove on the day that mattered the most, they couldn’t deliver. There were three run outs in the last four wickets, Ashleigh Gardner almost got a hat-trick and with every wicket, the panic seemed to go only up. But it was not just about handling the pressure. Through the tournament, India had some questionable selection calls (some even before they left), on-field tactics — some of which they got away with — and their batting-order, especially in the final.

For example, both in Sri Lanka and at CWG, India used quite a few additional bowling options. While it worked in the group stages, in both the semifinal against England and the final, they were taken apart with ease, letting go of the pressure that was built. Meghna Singh took just three wickets and had the fifth worst economy (8.00) in the tournament.

And, they had left behind one of the aggressive middle-order batters in Richa Ghosh, picking a squad filled with top-order batters. Case in point, Yastika Bhatia, who batted at No 3 in the opening game, came in as a concussion replacement for Taniya Bhatia in the final and was kept behind Sneh Rana and Radha Yadav at No 9.

India have a young talented core group of players — average age of the squad is 24 — to build on, with an ICC event lined up every year till 2027, including a CWG event in 2026. But to cross the final hurdle and win a world title, they would have to not commit the obvious tactical errors on the field, back players based on specific roles and have transparency and consistency in the selection process. And a lot of it has to happen off the field.

There is very little doubt regarding the fight they put up for the better part of the gold medal match. And a Commonwealth Games silver is no mean feat. As Jemimah Rodrigues said, “this team has a lot of potential and it’s going to do wonders in the future.” Hopefully, the silver medal would be the stepping stone on which the promise is built on.

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The New Indian Express