Led by Mithali Raj, India lacked any coherent structure at Women’s World Cup 2022 in New Zealand and largely due to that, they failed to make the cut in the semi-finals. Their appearances reflected there was little tactical clarity, and Raj, being an icon, could not invigorate her players either.
When the 2022 Women’s World Cup sparked into life, Indians announced themselves with an easy 107-run win against their arch-rivals Pakistan in Mount Maunganui. But then with time, they seemed to be a unit in decline and a three-wicket defeat against South Africa on March 27 signaled the end of their campaign. At the end of the league stage, they were placed fifth on the points table, with six points (three wins and four losses).
To be frank, there were stark differences between the Indians, led by the iconic Mithali Raj, and the other nations, that reached the knockout stage. Barring West Indies, who finished fourth with seven points and are already out of the championship race, Australia, England, and South Africa (no longer in the title race as well) became better with their tasks.
Eventually, India boiled down to luck. With three runs to defend off the last two deliveries, had Deepti Sharma not bowled the no-ball against South Africa when Mignon du Preez went for a big hit only to be found caught at long-on by Harmanpreet Kaur, the scenario could have been different. But as they say, you have to beat the best to be the best. India failed to deliver that against three semi-finalists (Australia, England, and South Africa), despite putting their neck on the line.
As Ramesh Powar’s tenure as the head coach of the Indian women following their side exit, the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) selectors have a lot of research to do in the coming days. Powar, who was involved in a dispute with Raj during the 2018 T20 World Cup, took over from WV Raman to begin his second stint, but it did not end up well. He may reapply again, but this time as per multiple reports, the NCA chief VVS Laxman will play a bigger role to rebuild the side.
So, what went wrong for India at the 2022 World Cup? Why did they underperform at the grandest stage of all? Let us have a look at the major takeaways from their disappointing campaign.
Defensive batting intent
One of the most debated talking points during the 2022 World Cup was the defensive nature of the Indians. Unlike the top-ranked nations, they played too many dot deliveries mostly during the middle phase of their innings, and that did not help them to post a big total or to chase down a challenging target. Except for Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, who have enjoyed significant success with the bat, aggregating 327 and 318 runs respectively, they did not bat as smoothly as they would have hoped.
Going against Shafali Verma’s selection too early
Shafali Verma, the 18-year-old sensation from Haryana, has been considered the next big thing for India women for a while now. Verma, widely known for her ability to start with alacrity, fell for a six-ball duck against Pakistan in their tournament opener and was dropped in the next match straight away. She was recalled in India’s last three fixtures, and unsurprisingly, made an impact. Her 107 runs came at a strike rate of 97.27, which is something India were missing in their previous outings at the top.
Leaders’ failures to set an example
During the 2022 World Cup, both Raj and Jhulan Goswami, the backbones of India women, reached many historic landmarks. Considering their years of experience in the international circuit, those were rightly on the cards. But as senior pros (both aged 39), their contributions did not match the lofty standards they set.
Raj accumulated 182 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 62.97, which has been criticised heavily. Her role on the Indian side, of course, was to anchor the innings, similarly, she has been doing over the years, but considering the fast-flowing cricket in today’s generations, it should have been better. Jhulan, on the other hand, though picked up seven wickets at an excellent economy rate of 4.36, her injury just ahead of India’s must-win tie against South Africa ruled him out of the contest. It was a major setback for the side, as they missed her services in the most-crucial fixture of the campaign.
“We know you gave your best and did everything you could. Keep your heads high. We will always support you.”
The rebirth of Harmanpreet Kaur
Before the World Cup, A large number of experts questioned BCCI on their decision of selecting Harmanpreet Kaur for the tournament. Kaur, who hit an unbeaten 171 off 115 balls against Australia in the second semi-final of the 2017 World Cup, was having a lean patch in national colours. Many advocated for Jemimah Rodrigues, the 21-year-old Mumbai-born cricketer, to get a place instead of her but then, Kaur shut their mouth with a remarkable individual campaign.
Even against South Africa, Kaur almost single-handedly brought India back into the contest. After hitting 48 off 57 balls with the bat to help her side post 274/7, Kaur flummoxed a well-set Laura Wolvaardt with the ball and then, trapped oppositions’ skipper Sune Luus leg before. But the Proteas stamped their authority soon and eventually, had the last laugh.
Decent collective bowling performance
The biggest positive takeaway from India’s perspective was their bowling in the 2022 World Cup. Their spinners Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Sneh Rana bowled beautifully, bagging 21 wickets in between them. While Rana’s economy rate read 4.24, Gayakwad had even better – 3.88. Right-arm medium Pooja Vastrakar, aged 22, was equally impressive, claiming 10 wickets at 4.69, averaging 18.30. Despite the absence of Shikha Pandey, a veteran of 55 ODIs and 56 T20Is for India, their bowling attack did not seem decomposed for once.
All in all, it was an ordinary World Cup campaign for India, as they never seemed to be a champion side. However, given the proposal for Women’s IPL from next year, they should not worry too much about the recent results, and keep focusing on their improvements. The old guards will not stay much longer, and perhaps, the time has come for the youngsters to step up extensively.