An off day for all - Mithali
India captain Mithali Raj could barely bring herself to speak at the post-match press conference. Surely it couldn't have ended so soon for the Women's World Cup hosts. It wasn't even a week since the tournament started, and they were already out, going down to defending champions England and shocked by unfancied Sri Lanka. India had been knocked out of the 2007 men's World Cup by Sri Lanka too, an exit their captain MS Dhoni calls a bigger setback than the recent home and away Test series losses.
There was a catch in Raj's voice as she spoke at the post-match presentation. Sitting in the chair in the media room later, she stared vacantly, head tilted upwards, as journalists walked in. She continued to stare in space for a few seconds after the first question was asked. Finally, she found her voice, saying she had never thought Sri Lanka would make as many as 282, after they chose to bat.
"I think honestly 280 is something I didn't expect Sri Lanka to score with the kind of bowling attack we had," Raj said. "When you chase a big total it is very important to have a very good start. We lost a quick wicket and then as we built a bit of partnership between me and Thrirush Kamini, we intended it to go big. After me, we lost Harmanpreet Kaur. I think the top three batsmen below 50 runs, that is where I thought the match is going to be tight."
Though India were chasing 283, getting to 251 would have sufficed to take them to the Super Six on a better net run-rate than West Indies. Raj said India wanted to go for the win initially. "Our first intention when we went in to bat was to chase 280 but as we lost wickets that definitely was playing in the minds of the batsmen who were going in. All of them were aware of the 251 target."
Against England as well as Sri Lanka, India's bowlers went for a lot of runs, conceding 272 and 282. Raj said she hadn't expected her entire attack to have an off day and felt they had given Sri Lanka too much width. "The Sri Lankans scored most of their runs square of the wicket. That itself shows as a bowler, where you are bowling. All the bowlers were off colour today. I guess we can expect one or two to be off colour but not all of them. I won't say it was complacency [against Sri Lanka] but I had a lot of faith in my bowlers. Against England also we gave extra runs in the last session and today we gave too many runs after the second Powerplay."
Even Jhulan Goswami , India's most successful and the second-most successful ODI bowler, conceded 63 runs. Raj defended her premier bowler, saying she could not be expected to deliver every time. "It's not that one player performs each and every day. She has done well against West Indies and England. But I didn't expect the other bowlers to have an off day too. There is one bowler you watch for and if that bowler may not get the right line and length on that day that doesn't mean she has let me down. She has won many games for India. I don't think she has let me down."
Raj said she was disappointed for having failed as captain to take India to the next stage of the tournament but not for having failed as a batsman with scores of 8 and 20 against England and Sri Lanka. "As a player there are fluctuations in sports. Sometimes you are very good, sometimes you don't take off. As a player I don't think too much into it."
While Raj felt India had fielded "very well" in the tournament, she also saw potential in India's young players. "I really cannot talk about the future but there are a lot of positives we can take from the young players like Thirush Kamini, Poonam Raut, Harmanpreet Kaur and Karu Jain. It is very disappointing to be out of the tournament as the host team. But I am sure in the future these girls will perform well for India."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo