World Cup exit overshadows India's consolation win
The contrasting moods of the India and Pakistan captains at the end of the seventh place play-off at the Barabati Stadium would have left anyone confused about the result. While the Pakistan captain Sana Mir was all smiles after a "tough tour", her India counterpart Mithali Raj wore a blank face.
It didn't really matter to Raj that her fourth ODI century had helped India chase 193 against arch rivals Pakistan with ease. It came a little too late since India's primary objective - that of staying alive for having a shot at the title - had slipped out of their hands even before they arrived in Cuttack. The hosts were eliminated before the second stage of the tournament.
"Well, the win has not made us happy because we know that being such a good team, the way we started our first game against West Indies, we thought we had a good chance of making it to the Super Sixes. To exit the tournament here, the girls are very disappointed. Yes it was a must-win game because we didn't want to lose again and finish last," Raj said.
"We had to literally pull ourselves up this morning for the game but as professional cricketers we know that these things happen. We have to bounce back, so that way the team has coped really well."
Raj has captained India in three of her four World Cup campaigns. While India made a sensational run to the final in 2005 in South Africa, they finished a respectable third in 2009 in Australia. The 2013 edition has been far from ideal, since the team has finished a lowly seventh. Does she see herself taking part in India's mission four years down the line?
"I don't know about 2017. I plan series by series, in four years a lot of things happen, so I'm not sure about that," Raj, 30, said. "There will be changes from World Cup to World Cup. There is always a transition in every team. Some of the seniors remain while there will be some youngsters coming in. It is important to see how the youngsters turn into experienced players by the time the next World Cup comes around."
Raj, though, admitted that the young Indian team wilted under the pressure of a big tournament. "The World Cup is a tournament where every player feels the pressure, irrespective of whether she is a debutant or the most experienced player. Yes, as a captain I had a good season in 2005, we finished No. 3 in 2009. We beat Australia in Australia and then this exit. It has been a mixed bag for me as captain," Raj said.
"I think with this team, once we falter, we keep faltering. It is not a team which can make a comeback, like an England side. They lost to Sri Lanka but came back strong and have made an impact. That is lacking. In terms of skill, we have extremely talented youngsters in the side, good medium pacers, but the spinners maybe were off colour. I think this time really has to work, especially when the guard is down. We need to work on our consistency in all games."
Despite stressing the "hurt" India's unexpected exit has caused to every player, Raj signed off hoping for the players to bounce back from the failure. "Individually, it doesn't feel great. As a player it feels terrible, but you need to move on and see to it that you don't repeat it and be positive in the coming series. As a senior player, you need to set an example for the youngsters. Most of them depend on me to give them the positive vibe. It is a very young side, very talented side, we need to be together to keep performing," Raj said.
"Every player is hurt, for us the World Cup is over today, but when we get back home maybe we will be sad for a few days but [then] it will be back to domestic cricket. I am sure they will start training once again and prepare."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo