Sudha Shah: Our batting really let us down
There are several reasons why a team can lose a World Cup. Not playing up to potential in a key game, under pressure, is one that is the most common. Anyone who watched the semifinal of the CricInfo Women's World Cup 2000 between India and New Zealand will testify that this was exactly what transpired. The Indian team seemed almost overawed by the occasion and slumped to a nine wicket loss and were knocked out of the tournament. Speaking to this correspondent over the telephone from Lincoln, New Zealand, the Indian team's cricketing manager Sudha Shah shed some light on what went wrong.
"Basically batting was our strength throughout the tournament. Chanderakantha Kaul and Anjum Chopra were in good nick, and had scored over 500 runs between them before the semifinal. In the semifinal however, things went wrong for us. Both Chander (Chanderakantha Kaul) and Anjum (Anjum Chopra) were dismissed without scoring and this made a big difference," said Sudha. Chanderakantha top edged a delivery from Kathryn Ramel and was easily caught in the eleventh over. Three balls later, Chopra played all around a straight, full delivery from Ramel and India were in trouble at 26/3. "Of our top five batsmen, three did not contribute to the total. This was a big blow. Our batting really let us down," she continued.
Sudha added that India's start was not a bad one, "Both Smitha Harikrishna and Purnima Rau approached the task sensibly. Although they were not scoring too quickly, they gave us a good start. Unfortunately, Smitha Harikrishna was brilliantly caught." With wickets falling quickly, Rau could not play out the task set out for her. "Purnima Rau is an experienced campaigner and she handled the situation well. Although she was sent in with an idea of exploiting the fielding restrictions, she was forced to curb her strokes. With wickets falling so quickly, she had no choice but to play the role of sheet anchor," said Sudha.
Another thing that hampered the Indians was the absence of Mithali Raj. In the three matches that she played, Mithali notched up scores of 69 not out, 51, 32, at an average of over 75. Raj could not play any further part in the tournament and was hospitalised with a chronic infection. "Mithali Raj's presence would have made a huge difference in the big match against New Zealand," said Sudha. She was quick to add, "It was not just the fact that she made good scores. You should have seen the ease with which she was making runs. Even against England, though she made only 32, she was in such fine form. But I'm not making excuses. Even without her we should have done much better."
When asked whether the team went into the match feeling sufficiently confident, Sudha replied, "We have played New Zealand before and knew that the game would be a tough one. However, we have been preparing for this game for a long time now and were very confident going into the game. We had a gameplan, tried a few innovations, but things just didn't go our way." That can be said again. Planning is one thing, execution something quite different. Although India did cut a bit of a sorry figure, as one enthusiast quipped, "It was a bit disappointing, but nothing more experience won't fix!"