Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj scored most of the runs for India and the spinners were on song, but it didn’t come together when it mattered the most.
If the ICC Women’s World T20 2018 needed a headline-grabbing start, Kaur provided it, smashing 103 in 51 balls in the opening game to help India put up 194/5. New Zealand battled hard in reply, but couldn't go past 160/9.
Poonam Yadav and D Hemalatha picked up two wickets apiece to restrict Pakistan to 133/7 despite half-centuries from Bismah Maroof and Nida Dar, and Raj then shepherded India home with a calm 47-ball 56.
Raj was at it again, this time after India got first strike against Ireland, scoring a measured 56-ball 51, and with spinners Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav on the spot again, India ran out 52-run victors.
It was the big clash against Australia, and this time Mandhana took centre stage, hitting 83 in 55 balls to help India put up 167/8. With star batter Alyssa Healy out after an on-field injury, Australia only got to 119 in reply, the spinners again putting up a stellar show.
And then it all came unstuck. Against England in the semi-final, the Indians opted to bat but just couldn’t get going, with Mandhana’s 34 and Jemimah Rodrigues’ 26 the only scores of note. England chased down India’s 112 with eight wickets and 17 balls to spare.
Positives to take home
Kaur was outstanding when she got going, which was the case with Raj and Mandhana too, and that’s reflected in the fact that India’s 194/5 against New Zealand and 167/8 against Australia were the best and third-best team totals in the tournament.
The spin attack also performed like a well-oiled machine for the most part despite the lack of experience. Radha Yadv and Poonam Yadav finished with eight wickets apiece, while D Hemalatha and Deepti Sharma had five each.
Areas to improve
Like in the case of the Windies, it was a matter of the second rung of batters not quite coming to the party. The inexperience in the bowling ranks also showed, and the fielding lapses at some crucial points didn’t help either.
India were fine without the injured Mithali Raj against Australia, but though she recovered in time for the semi-final against England, she was left out. With the batting never taking off, India missed her experience.
Kaur, Mandhana and Raj all scored big runs, but keeping the future in mind, young Rodrigues’ performances were heartening. She scored 59 to help Kaur along in the first game, and also got starts against Pakistan, Ireland and England, and was one of the more impressive fielders in the team.
“When you're building the team, you need some more young players to come and perform – Jemi, she's very mature, she adapts to the international level very early,” said Kaur of the youngster.