Shafali Verma doesn't have a reference point for defeat in a World Cup final. Nor does her fellow 16-year-old team-mate Richa Ghosh. This was their first world tournament; this was India's first T20 World Cup final. The hurt of an 85-run hiding at the hands of a ruthlessly clinical Australian side, therefore, found expression in raw emotions. Tears streamed down the cheeks of the two youngest members of an Indian side whose undefeated run in the tournament snapped in the final.
Verma, barely six months into her international career, finished as India's top-run getter; her four-match streak of brisk 25-plus scores ending with an underwhelming 2. A look of disbelief followed her edge off a short ball from Megan Schutt that the wicketkeeper, Alyssa Healy, gobbled up. Self-chastisement began as she threw her head back on her way off the field. Earlier in the day, she had dropped Healy on 9, who went on to make a match-defining 39-ball 75.
Ghosh had had little idea she would be playing any part in the match other than carrying drinks until India's daunting 185 chase entered its final ten overs. Coming in for the concussed No. 3 Taniya Bhatia, Ghosh came out at No. 8 in the wake of Veda Krishnamurthy's dismissal in the 12th over. The teenager struck an enterprising run-a-ball 18, but much like the rest of the batters that came after the top five, her resistance proved futile, and her attempts to add respectability to their chase, foiled.
"At 16, I had not watched women's cricket, let alone starting to play myself," India's captain Harmanpreet Kaur said. "And here they are, playing for India. It's a big thing. Yes, Shafali took the dropped chance to her heart. On one level, you understand these are kids we're talking about.
"But at some level, they must also realise what their mistake was and take this as a lesson. Such things help you become better, look for motivation within. Shafali has a long way to go, but the sooner you learn from these mistakes, the better."
In Kaur's view, their runners-up finish at the T20 World Cup in Melbourne wasn't the same as the Lord's heartbreak for the Mithali Raj-led side at the 2017 ODI World Cup final.
"I guess 2017 was more disappointing because that was so close, but today what we were expecting of ourselves, we didn't play that cricket," Kaur, who was part of both teams, said. "But as our team is quite young, we did really well in the league games, and I think at the last T20 World Cup we reached the semis and this year the finals. I think, if we just keep working on ourselves and keep improving, then maybe in the future we can win."
At the MCG, the sound of the record 86, 174 crowd was deafening. By the time the result of the game had been decided, a visibly distraught Verma stood close to vice-captain Smriti Mandhana before they went up on the stage to collect their medal.
"I told her she has got to be really proud of the kind of campaign she had," Mandhana said. "As a 16-year-old, when I first played the World Cup, I couldn't hit the ball 60% of the way she could. She was really upset the way she got out. But she is that kind of a kid - she keeps thinking about how to get better.
"This time she should be left alone. This is the time to introspect. Especially because failure teaches you more than success. I think the whole team should be left alone and just introspect how we can grow as players.
Mandhana's own form at the tournament was far from convincing. In four innings, including the final, she made 49 runs at an average of 12.25, the dearth of a half-century from her or anyone else through the World Cup laid exposed in the final. All shortcomings considered, Mandhana said there were positives in India's campaign, which she too believed, was unlike the 2017 edition of the 50-over World Cup.
"At 16, I had not watched women's cricket, let alone starting to play myself. And here they are, playing for India. It's a big thing" Harmanpreet Kaur on Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh
"That was a different format," Mandhana said, "T20 was not one of our strengths. One-day is still our preferred format, and yet the way we have come out of it and played our cricket in the last 8-10 months… But our team performance overall has been quite good. That's something [coach] Raman sir worked on - to develop this as a team and not just create one or two players.
"You get one or two players out and you win a match. Obviously, it didn't work out the way we thought it would today. That's a very good thing Raman sir has got into this team. And the way the youngsters have come in and changed the set-up totally."
The pressure of the crowd, Mandhana added, wasn't a factor in India's loss. Nor was the buzz in general around the team in the lead-up to the final.
"We all are really off everything. We have changed our numbers," she said. "We are not on Instagram or Twitter for us to think at the moment. The crowd was amazing, but given we play in front of noisy crowds at home, so we are kind of used to playing noisy crowd. We were not much concerned about that; we just wanted to play good cricket."
As for the 16-year-olds, Mandhana called for moderation and fairness from team-mates and fans alike. "She [Verma], for example, got good runs in the last four matches. T20 is a format where, especially as an opener, one day you will go and get 80 runs, another day you will get eight runs. If we can take those innings so well and appreciate them, then I think we will have to be beside her after this innings as well."
Pace spearhead Shikha Pandey echoed Mandhana, adding the emotional heft of their young players' reaction to the loss was only natural. "They've played their first World Cup. They still have a long way to go. So we would just go have a chat with them and tell them we can get back stronger next time. It's okay for them to emotional express what they are feeling."
Pandey, like Mandhana and Kaur, is among the select few in this T20I side who saw India collapse at Lord's to squander what looked like a likely maiden world title. Though India have come up short in two finals in four years, she underlined the enormity of the night, and the luminaries who helped make the final a watershed moment in women's cricket, should not be forgotten.
"It's a privilege to have spoken to her today, and have met her in person," Pandey said about tennis legend Billie Jean King, who was seen speaking to the Indian side after they lost the game. "She's someone who's done so much for women's sport in general, and someone's who's actively working towards equal pay and opportunities for women. She just said we were unlucky to have lost today… we must keep working hard. She said she's very proud of us."
As India now shift their focus to the ODI World Cup that begins in less than a year in New Zealand, lessons from this T20 world tournament might come in handy, and King's words in particular could spur them on to overcoming the final frontier soon.