Express News Service
CHENNAI: When India skipper Shafali Verma got out while India were chasing 69 there was no panic in the India team. Their pursuit of glory was still within grasp in the final of the inaugural ICC U-19 Women's T20 World Cup final at Potchefstroom on Sunday. Even when Shweta Sehrawat, the batting star of the tournament, got out, the dressing room did not freak out.
Because out in the middle were Soumya Tiwari and G Trisha — the two who knew what was needed. They have spent enough time together to know each other’s game and more importantly, they knew what was at stake. Trisha (24) and Soumya (24 n.o) ensured there were no further hiccups as India cruised towards the title.
Just to put the match into context, their bowlers had done their job. Titas Sadhu, the pacer from Bengal, had set the stage with a splendid new ball spell, finishing with 2/6 in her four overs before spinners did the rest.
A seven-wicket win to bring home the World Cup trophy — the one that eluded their coach Nooshin Al Khadeer when she was in the same country 18 years ago as a player, then again in 2017 against the same opposition at Lord's and again in 2020 versus Australia. In fact, their captain Shafali and Richa Ghosh know what it is like to be on the other side of the result.
This, however, is the new generation. These players don't panic. They aren't overwhelmed by big occasions. Their confidence at times can be scary too. Some of them, Shabnam MD for example, weren’t even born when Nooshin was playing in 2005. Though they have had their share of struggle getting into the sport, but in the past couple of years they have left all that behind. Their mission was to make it to the U19 World Cup and win it. In the lead-up to the tournament, most of them were even competing against each other for a place in the squad.
However, credit has to be given where it is due. Over the past nine months, the BCCI has had several zonal camps from which the players were shortlisted to the main camp at the National Cricket Academy. There they trained under the same coach — Nooshin. Players got to spend a lot of time together and bond. And before travelling to South Africa, they played a quadrangular series with Sri Lanka and West Indies and bilaterals against New Zealand at home and the hosts SA. To be precise, none of the other top teams had as much game-time together as India had had.
Coming to the coach — Nooshin. She has not lost a single tournament in the last two seasons whether it is with Railways in the domestic circuit or in the Women’s T20 Challenge last year. But before going to the WC, she knew the challenges. She was not going to take any team lightly and expected a few upsets along the way as well. Which is what happened too. And as Shafali said, she was there with the team every single day to remind them why they are there and what the final goal was.
Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from this triumph is the kind of talent pool that is there in the country. When Shafali and Richa were included in the squad at the last minute without spending much time in any of the earlier camps, it raised a lot of eyebrows. But this group of teenagers smashed all the doubts with every single match through the tournament. It was Shweta who finished as the top run scorer with 297 runs at a strike rate of 139.43 in seven innings. Shafali was third on the list, with Soumya and Trisha stepping up in crucial matches. And then there are Parshavi Chopra, the second leading wicket-taker with 11 scalps, Mannat Kashyap and Archana Devi — the trio who spun a web around opponent batters.
In a month where the BCCI has become Rs 5,650.99 crore richer with the inaugural Women’s Premier League, this batch of U19 cricketers has painted a picture at the global stage of what kind of talent India have and how they are likely to dominate world cricket in the next decade. Nooshin summed it up perfectly after the match. “It just shows the kind of depth we have and what is there for us in the future. The most special thing about this team is their belief. The team believes… We have been waiting for a very long time for a cup and it’s gonna be the U-19 who’s giving it first, so it's the future and we have a very good future,” she said.
Everything about the U19 Women’s T20 World Cup was going to be historic. It was happening for the first time. For the past 15 days, irrespective of where each team finished and how each player performed, they are all going to be a part of history. But in the end, there is only one winner — India. They have turned a new page in the history of Indian women’s cricket.
Brief scores: England Women U-19 68 (Ryana 19; Titas 2/6, Parshavi 2/13, Archana 2/17) lost to India Women U-19 69/3 (Soumya 24 n.o, Trisha 24).