The 2017 Women’s World Cup in England is the 11th edition of the tournament, marking India’s ninth appearance. Wisden India asks former players – some legends, some out of the spotlight, but all vital names in Indian women’s cricket history – to look back on an edition they were a part of, and look ahead to the team’s chances this year.
Rumeli Dhar represented West Bengal in gymnastic at the sub-junior nationals and attended camps at the Sports Authority of India, but quickly realised that cricket was her calling. Nicknamed Jonty Rhodes by her brother’s friends with whom she used play tennis-ball cricket in her lane in 24 Paraganas, Dhar was groomed by her father’s friend to be a cricketer. A versatile allrounder, she has captained and has also kept wicket for India Women. She played four Tests, 78 One-Day Internationals and 15 Twenty20 Internationals from 2003 to 2012 for a combined tally of 1328 runs and 81 wickets. Her run included a runner-up medal in the 2005 Women’s World Cup, and a third-place finish in the subsequent edition in Australia.
Still a regular on the domestic circuit, Dhar, who works in the mechanical department of Northern Railways in Delhi and represents Assam as a professional, takes us through India’s journey in the 2009 Women’s World Cup. Excerpts:
A team in transition
(The Indian team had nine players who were playing in a World Cup for the first time)
The team that finished runner-up in the 2005 World Cup is still India’s best ever, but most of the seniors had left by 2009. The newcomers were good, there was Harmanpreet (Kaur) and Anagha Deshpande, among others. There was a bit of pressure on us seniors, but we never allowed it to affect us. We just thought of doing well as a team. Usually, when there are changes, the team slips. But the youngsters stepped up, which was a good sign for Indian cricket. We had taken over the baton from our seniors, and now we saw juniors who could carry it from us.
Having played an ODI series in Australia in October-November previous year (in which India were white-washed 5-0) helped us a lot. We had good preparation for two years, and the only thing in our mind was that we needed to do well in the World Cup. I won’t say it was pressure, but a motivation of representing our country at the World Cup.
It was the first World Cup after the BCCI took over women’s cricket in 2006, and their support was significant. I would say that over the years, they have made it possible for the entire country to know more about women cricketers through the media. It is a big thing.
Bowling clicks as a unit
(Priyanka Roy, Dhar, Gouher Sultana and Amita Sharma picked up 40 wickets between them to finish among the tournament’s top ten wicket-takers)
Amita, Jhulan (Goswami, the captain) and I were the pacers, and between us we had one thing: that we will contain first and that will lead to wickets. We were not jealous if someone else got five wickets. We understood that when someone else is taking wickets, our role is to contribute by containing from the other end. This understanding was very important among the seamers. The same strategy worked for the spin pair of Gouher Sultana and Priyanka Roy as well. The entire bowling unit’s understanding was wonderful.
The conditions really suited us, and we practiced what we should do and what we should not. As I said, we had played a series in Australia. And, we also arrived early for the World Cup to get acquainted with the weather and conditions.
India in 2009
Results: Beat Pakistan by ten wickets, lost to England by nine wickets, beat Sri Lanka by 35 runs, beat Australia by 16 runs, lost to New Zealand by five wickets, beat West Indies by eight wickets, beat Australia by three wickets.
Best batter: Mithali Raj – 247 runs in 7 matches at 61.75
Best bowler: Priyanka Roy – 12 wickets in 7 matches at 14.00
Players: Mithali Raj, Anjum Chopra, Anagha Deshpande, Amita Sharma, Sulakshana Naik, Reema Malhotra, Jhulan Goswami (capt), Harmanpreet Kaur, Rumeli Dhar, MD Thirushkamini, Priyanka Roy, Gouher Sultana, Poonam Raut, Sravanthi Naidu, Snehal Pradhan.
Emergence of Roy
(Roy, the legspinner who had played 10 ODIs till then, finished as the tournament’s third-highest wicket-taker with 12 scalps in seven games at 14.00)
She is a wrist spinner, so the hard and bouncy pitches, and the comparatively bigger grounds played a part. But more importantly, she maintained a good line and length. She used to listen to the captain and to seniors like Anjum di and stuck to the plan. She always bowled to the fields given to her. Even now – she is the vice-captain of East Zone for whom I played last season – her bowling has that thing about it. She is one of the best legspinners in the country.
Batting around Raj and Chopra
(Mithali Raj, the only Indian in the list of top ten run-getters, finished with an aggregate of 247 runs in seven matches at 61.75. Anjum Chopra was India’s next best batter with 164 runs)
True, more batters should have scored. But without small contributions from all, they would not have got support and we could not have finished third. It’s a team game.
Beating Australia twice on their home turf
(Having never won against Australia Women in Australia earlier, India beat them twice in eight days. They won the league game by 16 runs, and the third-place playoff by three wickets. Dhar was the Player of the match in the second game for taking 2 for 24 and making an unbeaten 24 in a tense chase of 143)
Beating Australia twice in two games in Australia is the best memory. In the first match, we got a good start (from Chopra, Deshpande and Raj), and then Harman’s knock (19* off 8 balls that took India to 234 for 5) boosted the team a lot.
In the second game, my plan was to stick to the basics and do nothing different. Jhulan supported me a lot from the other end.
Jhulan and I had batted together in the past, so we were comfortable (after India were reduced to 104 for 7). We just said to each other that we would take the game deep and not panic. We focussed on taking singles and then the odd boundary was available (during the unbroken 41-run stand). Obviously, there was tension because of the stakes but we believed if we keep rotating the strike, then game nikal jayega (will be won). Their bowling was not that difficult, but the wind was a factor in an open ground. The key was to stay at the wicket. People usually celebrate victories by opening a champagne bottle, but we sprayed cold drinks over each other after that game.
The way our team is performing, they should go deep in this tournament. We have good pacers, but playing in a bilateral series or any tournament and in a World Cup are different things. They have to give 100% support to Jhulan. We have good batting, but bowlers have to deliver for us to be No. 1.