India v Sri Lanka, Women's World Cup 2013, Mumbai February 5, 2013

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AT on February 7, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    Agree with someone who pointed out that dropping Niranjana was a blunder. For the last 10 games, this lady has not had a single game where she went wicketless. Even now against Pakistan she has picked up 3 wickets for 35 runs. Her replacement S Sharma was pathetic giving away 52 runs in 9 overs with no wickets and has played only 2 ODI's before the SL game. I believe this made a huge difference in the outcome of the match as we were under immense pressure when we started batting with a 280+ to chase and we have never chased beyond 230 ever.

  • Ashok on February 6, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    Mithali Raj, your team scored their highest total in their first game & gave the least runs to the opposition. By the time the 3rd game was played, India progressively scored less runs & gave away more runs to a highest total of 282!. The team ability/intensity decreased both in bowling & batting as the tourney progressed - the opposite is the Norm. Was it due to lack of stamina & endurance? I still feel in Goewami, Niranjana, & the 2 Sharma + Bisht, India has good bowling. Sultana is a good bowler but should push the ball little faster to nearly 80 KPH to be effective. On the Mumbai wkt. you do not pitch away but on the stumps all the time. India did this very well especially Goswami & Niranjana in the first match but then moved away from it. In batting, leave the wide balls alone & get one extra run + extra ball. India failed to do so.Running betwn. the wkts. was poor with no calls. Batsmen need to be patient. Runs will come the longer you play. Good luck against Pakistan.

  • Hardik on February 6, 2013, 18:09 GMT

    That's why I have always said, never underestimate any team and don't let your words speak louder than your action. Remember your comments on England bowlers before match?

  • Sriram on February 6, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    You may have been offcolor, but you were outplayed thoroughly Raj. that is the truth. As an Indian fan i wanted you to win, but SL has shown its neither money or power rather determination and hunger that wins games. Nevertheless you may still would have not made Semis given that Aus, Eng, NZ are gauranteed. On the other hand BCCI has to be blamed, the last time Indian women played a ODI series was way back in July 2012. Now i suppose there will be a few more Ind-SL women series to avenge this

  • Yarman on February 6, 2013, 5:20 GMT

    This is SL coming of age.. a repeat of 1996... What thyem win the WWC 2013. As an Indina supporter I'm sad to see India knocked out but the betterteam wone on the day.

  • krishnan on February 6, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    I dont think we deserve to be in Super six.... M Raj made big mistake by leaving out Niranjana.. she s expensive but picks up 2-3 wickets.. she is our highest wicket-taker in this WC. Our gals are very weak , they cant clear boundaries frequently. Kaur played a blinder of innings against ENG ,with all elegant strokes...

  • jose on February 6, 2013, 4:14 GMT

    Once again, I am disappointed by this Indian captain. I hope future captains and players learn from the humility of players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Darren Sammy, Alistair Cook and Hashim Amla. Their game speaks for them. They do not need loud words or excuses to describe their games. It would have been truly appropriate if Ms Raj had accepted the defeat with grace and commended the Sri Lankan team upon their victory.

  • Fazeer on February 6, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    Madam its not off day, your team was simply outplayed in all departments. Admit that you have been beaten by a superior team who are just babes in the game of cricket in Sri Lanka.

  • Pad on February 6, 2013, 3:16 GMT

    "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." Batsmen?? Looks like we all are still getting used to the concept of women's cricket :-)

  • Rob on February 6, 2013, 2:59 GMT

    SK5983 not sure how it was an off day for England, defo for India who now have a 50:50 chance of coming 8th out of 8. ps. If this event was in England it would be well supported because women are treated as equals in England (tis the culture and law).

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