The independent voice of cricket

Women's T20 World Cup 2023

India need to get their basics right to avoid these copy-paste defeats

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 6 minute read

Yet another heartbreak awaited the Indian women’s cricket team as they crashed out of the T20 World Cup semifinal after going down to Australia by five runs. The close collapses in pressure games are becoming a habit, and there should be no excuses, writes Sarah Waris.

After India lost yet another close knockout game, a teary-eyed Harmanpreet Kaur, hiding her emotions behind a pair of blue goggles, blamed the five-run defeat on luck. “Can’t be unluckier than this.” She was referring to her bizarre run-out when her bat got stuck and she was unable to drag it back in time, with her feet in the air. Her 34-ball 52 had kept India in the run-chase of 173, as she and Jemimah Rodrigues rescued India from 28-3 to 93-3 at the end of the first 10 overs but her departure started a procession.

While India kept up with the required run rate and a win against Australia seemed on the cards, you dared to dream. As the equation reduced further, the viewing numbers on Hotstar surged. Every run was cheered, every quick single was met with a shriek. But a silent voice asked you to not get ahead of yourself. They’d been here far too often and it had always ended in defeat.


Throw your mind back to the 2017 World Cup final. Chasing 229 for their first-ever World Cup win, India were well-placed at 191-3, needing 38 runs from the final 44 deliveries. Less than six overs later, it was done and dusted, with England eking out a memorable win, as India were bowled out for 219.

Watching India play then, you’d have realised this was a team that had surpassed their own might to reach there. The fielding had looked sub-par through the tournament, and the running between the wickets was occasionally mindless. In the final, there were two run outs, with the second one potentially changing the game. Shikha Pandey failed to make it to her crease courtesy of some smart work at point, with her dismissal leaving India with nine more runs to get and two wickets in hand. Poonam Yadav, and India, were given another life when Jenny Gunn dropped a sitter, but it was not capitalised upon.

Alien to playing under pressure in front of huge crowds before, you could argue that the moment got to them. They’d learn from it, you were certain, but the most recent two knockout exits are more worrying.

In the last five-and-a-half years, India have reached the playoffs of world events four more times. Of them, two have been one-sided defeats, in the 2018 T20 World Cup semi-final and the 2020 T20 World Cup final. The 2022 Commonwealth Games final loss (by nine runs) and the semi-final defeat on Thursday need a closer inspection because the pattern is hard to miss.

India have gone down both times to Australia while chasing – their stronger department. Last year, they got Alyssa Healy early but a lack of sting in the middle overs allowed Australia to recover and post 161-8. The second innings began with the quick wickets of Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma, after which Rodrigues and Harmanpreet took them near the finish line, piling on 96 runs for the third wicket. At 118-3, with 44 to get in 34 deliveries, Australia’s dominance was under threat, but it was not to be.

India lost their last seven wickets for 34 runs, with three run outs as chaos ensued. Stunning throws by Ashleigh Gardner and Meghan Schutt sent back Sneh Rana and Radha within four deliveries. Harmanpreet and Jemimah lent stability but the inability to see off the run chase with questionable strokes saw their downfall.

With no Richa Ghosh in the squad, and with Pooja Vastrakar, who averaged 18.40 with the bat before the game, batting at No.5, India lacked adequate depth lower down the order. The lack of a Women’s Premier League was attributed to the defeat, with the team unable to handle nervy moments, but Harmanpreet vowed to come back stronger.

Six months later, the semi-final against Australia almost played out identically. After controlling the first half of the innings with the ball, and reducing the rivals to 69-1 after 10 overs, they let them reach 161. There were as many as three drop catches, excluding a number of fumbles as India let the momentum slip away, quite literally. Contrast this to Ellyse Perry’s game-changing diving save at the ropes when India needed 20 off eight, reiterating how big of a difference it makes.

With the bat, the openers departed early again, and there was another recovery from Rodrigues and Harmanpreet. Once again, neither could see it till the end, though the captain was unfortunate to be dismissed in that manner. Despite the presence of Ghosh this time, it was not enough as they crumbled under pressure one more time, unable to score 40 from 33.

Harmanpreet’s comments after the game, however, deflected the blame, for it was not all luck that led to the defeat. Poor selections, like the omission of replacement player Sneh Rana from the original squad or the selections of Harleen Deol and Yastika Bhatia need to be questioned. Rana was brought in for the semi-final against Australia and her lack of match practice showed. Deol and Bhatia have T20 strike rates below 90, and finding a place for them in the XI threatens to slow the scoring rate. Deepti, one of the most experienced players in the team, has often been left with the duty of seeing things through, but her untimely dismissal in the CWG opened up the floodgates, while she consumed 17 deliveries for her 20 on Thursday, and she cannot be counted upon as a finisher with Ghosh. The death bowling has been woeful, with teams allowed to post strong scores, something we saw in the clash against England earlier in the tournament as well.

While it is true that Harmanpreet’s runout turned the game on its head, it was not the changing point. India were still in with a chance but the failure to dominate the controllables haunted them. In the end, it is about basic game awareness and execution, which they have struggled with under pressure. On Thursday, as the equation reduced and when singles were the need of the hour, Ghosh, Rana and then Radha got out attempting fancy shots. This brings into focus the WPL and how the league’s biggest aim will be to first correct the schoolgirl errors the players are keen on repeating.

Yes, the BCCI’s delayed interest in starting the tournament has been a factor, but it is the same mistakes, which were first witnessed in 2017 that have resulted in two copy-paste defeats in the space of six months. Much has changed for the Indian women’s cricket team over the years, but, wildly, it seems like nothing really has. Who is to take the blame for it, you wonder.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99