The final league game of the three-team Women's T20 Challenge in Jaipur set off a debate over whether Mithali Raj's Velocity should have tried to go for a win or - as they did - play conservatively to secure qualification for the final based on a "calculative", net-run-rate-focused approach.
The purpose of the four-match tournament, carrying official T20 status, is to try and make a case for a full-fledged IPL-style league for women, by drawing in more audience with high-quality cricket. On Thursday, though, Velocity's innings - following No. 3 Danielle Wyatt's dismissal - put up anything but, that too in front of a 7000-strong crowd.
Chasing 143 against Harmanpreet Kaur's Supernovas, and with both spots in the final up for grabs, Velocity needed 66 off 51 to win when Wyatt was dismissed. Getting to 117 would have allowed Velocity to finish the league on second and pip third-placed Trailblazers on NRR for a final showdown with Supernovas. They opted for the safer option.
After getting to 77 for 3 in the first 69 balls of the innings, Velocity made 53 off the remaining 51 without losing a wicket. They hit only two fours, off 43 balls, until reaching the 117-run mark, their qualification cut-off. By then, the equation for a win had ballooned to 25 off eight balls, and they eventually managed to get to 130 for 3.
Steering the chase after Wyatt's dismissal were Raj and Veda Krishnamurthy, who remained unbeaten on 40 off 42 and 30 off 29 respectively. Krishnamurthy, usually an attacking batsman, shed light on Velocity's conservative approach to the chase after the match.
"In the previous game, we made a lapse by losing a heap of wickets because we were in a rush to close out the chase," said Krishnamurthy of Velocity's five-for-nothing collapse with two runs left to score against Trailblazers on Wednesday.
"So our initial aim [on Thursday] was to qualify for the final because we had a certain target to get. So, we were asked to play accordingly. And when we got close to that target is actually when we tried to go for our shots."
The experienced pair's cautious approach stuck out as a sore thumb, for only two days ago, the fearless strokeplay of their 15-year-old uncapped team-mate Shafali Verma became an early highlight of the three-wicket win, and the tournament.
Krishnamurthy, however, reasoned that any other approach on their part would have exposed the "inexperienced" Velocity middle order to a "pressure situation" and put their chances of qualification in jeopardy.
"If you look at it, we did get good runs in the Powerplay," she said. "With Danni going about playing her natural game. It put us on the front-foot. It was just that we were being very calculative in how to get the game done.
"We wanted to get as close as possible, considering after me, it's a bit of an inexperienced middle order coming in, so we didn't want to put them under a pressure situation. We just wanted to get as close as we can so we have another game to come back and think about it."