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India haunted by dropped catches and poor batting form on big stage

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Reaching finals will definitely motivate Indian girls - Kaur (0:47)

India captain Harmanpreet Kaur believes her side's performances will inspire young girls to play cricket. (0:47)

What happens when the personnel, that had buoyed through the tournament, comes up short in the final? India's chastening 85-run defeat to Australia in the T20 World Cup final was a study in just that. ESPNcricinfo probes how it all unravelled.

Spinners' dream run ends

Through their undefeated run in the league stage, India's bowlers, especially their spinners, did the heavy lifting. The slowness of all the surfaces through the group games - at the Sydney Showground Stadium, the WACA, and the Junction Oval in Melbourne - aided India's four-pronged spin-heavy attack.

"It has all panned out really well. It's just a joke going around that this World Cup is made in such a way that it's helping us; starting from the wickets to everything," Veda Krishnamurthy had said on Thursday in Sydney after India made the final via a washout.

The MCG turf in the final was on the quicker side, and with conducive bounce, it made for a flat deck that Australia used to notch up their highest total, 154, batting first in a T20 World Cup final across men's or women's cricket in just 17.1 overs. Their 184 for 4 became the highest total in a T20 world tournament final.

Each of India's four frontline spinners conceded at least 7.25 runs per over, and the treatment from a rampaging Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney meant Shikha Pandey, India's only quick bowler in the XI - a combination they stuck with since their second group game - was carted at 13 an over.

The big guns never came good with the bat

Teenager Shafali Verma's tally of 163 from the five innings in the World Cup was the most from the Indian side. The combined returns of their key cogs in the top five - Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues - was 164 in the 14 innings between them. In the final, opener Mandhana fell for 11 while Rodrigues' up-and-down campaign culminated in a duck.

Kaur's horror run with the bat, meanwhile, reflected in her scores of 4, 15, 1, 8 and 2. Any hopes of a form revival in a big-match scenario, an apt setting for Kaur's hundreds in recent world tournaments, were dashed when she holed out to deep square leg off left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen, with India slumping to 30 for 4 in the final over of the powerplay.

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Catches win… World Cup finals

Verma dropped Healy on 9 - a straightforward, flat, waist-high chance shelled at cover. Mooney, the highest run-scorer for Australia heading into the final, was on 8 off six when left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad spilled a return catch low to the ground. Healy went on to hammer a 39-ball 75; Mooney finished atop the tournament run-charts with a 54-ball 78.

"When you lose half chances, and then it's hard for a bowler to get that confidence back," Kaur said after the match. "Then, I guess it's easy for a batter too because, when they get a chance, then they are just batting freely. They don't have any pressure."

India sacked their previous fielding coach, Biju George, ahead of the tour of the West Indies in November last year. The work put in by George's successor Subhadeep Ghosh had held India in good stead heading into the final. Was it the nerves of playing a big match in front of a record crowd, then, that drew errors out of the Indian fielders who had fared relatively better than many of their opponents in the group games?

"I don't think we were fielding under pressure," Kaur explained. "But unfortunately, we were not able to create those chances because that was very crucial because they both were in great form. You cannot drop the catches. After that, I think they batted very well."

Fit India movement

Mandhana, who cut out a few fours by throwing herself around in the circle and near the boundary, underscored India have work to do in another key area: fitness.

"It's been a clear indication that we lack in fielding and fitness, that one thing was a major difference between both the teams," Mandhana said. "We definitely felt that through the tournament but today we didn't field [up to the mark]. [We] not only dropped the chances, in general throughout the match.

"That's two things [we need to work on]. In batting and bowling, we've got the skills; we're slowly getting into the power-hitting zone. These are two things we need to implement and hopefully, it will help us lift the ICC trophy."