Images Courtesy: T20 World Cup
Team India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur was extremely confident ahead of the final of the ICC T20 World Cup against hosts Australia, following an unbeaten campaign so far. Harmanpreet highlighted the excellent performances of the bowling attack through thick and thin, as well as the sublime knocks of opener Shafali Verma. However, what the 31-year-old failed to account for was an extraordinary show by Australian opener Alyssa Healy, who smashed the ball to all corners of the ground under pressure. Alyssa's knock of 75 runs off 39 deliveries in an innings comprising of seven boundaries and five sixes, put the Aussies right on top enabling them to post an excellent total of 184 runs on the board. The Indian bowlers had no option but to act as mute spectators, after the opener's onslaught which put them out of contention in an all-important final.
Some have even gone to the extent of terming Alyssa's knock as being in the same league as legendary cricketer Adam Gilchrist's ton in the final of the ODI World Cup 2007. The India women failed to handle the pressure of chasing down a total as huge as 185, losing wickets tamely and at regular intervals, enabling Australia to emerge triumphant yet again. When Harmanpreet and coach WV Raman sit down to analyse the game, they will certainly think back upon three instances where the swashbuckling opener was let off the hook. Let's take an in-depth look into the clash, by identifying three such major game-changing moments:
1) Shafali Verma's sitter at extra cover:
Shafali Verma is usually considered a reliable fielder, with her ability to cut off the flow of runs on the back of supreme commitment drawing praise from one and all. However, Shafali failed to deliver the goods when it mattered the most in the final of the tournament, having impressed over the course of the season. While a folly is certainly understandable considering the fact that she is just 16-years-old, there can be no doubt over the importance of the moment and the impact it had on the overall context of the game.
Shafali was handed an excellent opportunity to dismiss Alyssa in the opening over of the innings with the opener batting at 9. The Australian opener came down the track following a full delivery bowled outside off, and hit the ball straight to the 16-year-old at short extra cover. However, Shafali failed to complete the catch, after initially attempting to grab the ball with a dive towards her left, with the ball eventually popping out.
2) Giving Alyssa an opportunity to score freely off Shikha Pandey
While veteran pacer Shikha Pandey has been a quality performer for India on the slow tracks which the group stages had to offer, conditions certainly play a part in determining a player's impact on the game. Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur should have exercised better judgement with regard to the decision to hand Shikha the ball, on the batting-friendly conditions in Melbourne, considering the 19 runs she conceded in the initial two overs.
The veteran pacer conceded 52 runs over her spell of four overs during the course of the clash, which is the most runs conceded by a player in a Women's T20 World Cup match. Alyssa smashed the pacer for three consecutive sixes in the third over of the spell, hitting the ball over long-on, over long-off and over extra cover astutely. The Australian opener was certainly less comfortable against the spinners when they took pace off the ball, which should have been capitalised upon during the course of the first innings.
3) Poor Performance on the field:
The Team India fielding left much to be desired during the course of the clash, with the players unable to make their presence felt when it mattered the most. The Indian team had an opportunity to account for the dismissal of Alyssa Healy in the seventh over of the innings, which was bowled by Rajeshwari Gaekwad. The opener attempted to come down the track and hit a full delivery bowled outside off, looking to go inside out, miscuing the ball over cover. Harmanpreet had an opportunity to run back and complete the catch but failed to get there, which certainly cost her side dear in the long run.