India Women’s Twenty20 International series win against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday (February 24) ended a successful tour, with the tourists having prevailed in the One-Day International series too.
It was only the second time since they started playing in 1976 that India were successful across two formats on an assignment outside Asia. Wisden India takes a look at the talking points from the tour.
Two for the future
With India playing their first series since losing to England by nine runs in the 2017 World Cup final almost seven months back, transition was in the air. Hemalata Kala’s selection committee made the right call by naming four rookies in the T20I squad, and two of them came out with flying colours.
Jemimah Rodrigues’s positive intent was hard to miss. She brought a definite purpose to the crease in both the T20Is she got going. Her 98-run partnership with Mithali Raj that set the tone for 54-run win in the final game made for delightful viewing because of the intelligence displayed by the duo. Rotating the strike between big hits meant that South African bowlers could never slow down the game. Rodrigues cannot be kept away from the ODI team for long now.
Pooja Vastrakar might not have got a game in the tour had Jhulan Goswami been fit. She grabbed her chance with some high quality bowling. Her away-swingers and the temperament in the Power Play overs kept things under check.
India’s batting order comes good
India were 91 for 2 in 11 overs in the third T20I in Johannesburg, but slumped to be dismissed for 133 in 17.5 overs. Late-order batting collapses are familiar with the Indian batting line-up, as we saw during the World Cup final. India, however, regrouped to put up a dominant batting show in the series-decider.
Having once not been able to crack the format, Mithali has adapted well to the shortest format with five fifties in her last six innings. And, the arrival of Rodrigues gives Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy some breathing space. Add to it Smriti Mandhana’s knocks of 84 and 135 in the first two ODIs and 57 in the second T20I, India’s batting is no more dependent on a couple of names, reducing the “burden” from Raj.
The way India chased down 165 and 143 in the first two T20Is came as a revelation to many. This could be India’s batting order for some time to come. Raj, Kaur, Veda, Rodrigues, Mandhana, Punam Raut and Deepti Sharma form the core across two formats, and it becomes imperative for the board to ensure that they get enough time in the middle to handle pressure in crunch situations, like the upcoming World T20 in the Caribbean.
There is one school of thought that believes that Raj could bat at No.3 in T20Is, opening up a space for a pinch-hitter at the top of the order to make use the Power Play overs. It could be worth a try to widen the team’s batting base.
Rumeli Dhar’s return to international cricket after 2171 days got the social media talking. She picked up three wickets in her second game, but needs some more time before settling down. She returning to the fray brings in much-needed depth to India’s pace bowling department where Shikha Pandey and Goswami have had to carry the burden for long. She also brings additional value as a handy batter, and that gives the management the scope to experiment with the team composition based on conditions.
Dhar’s return becomes crucial at a time where Goswami, who became the first bowler to take 200 ODI wickets during the tour, has been plagued with injuries. She had issues with her non-bowling arm during the domestic season, and has now injured her foot.
Fielding – up and down
India might have scripted a clean sweep in the ODI series had Pandey not dropped a sitter at mid-off and Sushma Verma not missed a stumping in the same over off Poonam Yadav in the final game. Two more chances went begging on either side of that phase of play as South Africa held their nerve to chase down 241 with four balls to spare. At the same time some of the catching through the tour has been exceptional, with Rodrigues’s sensational jumping catch inches inside the square-leg fence to dismiss a dangerous Marizanne Kapp in the final T20I standing out. There remains significant scope for improvement.
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) February 24, 2018
Do new T20I rules need rethinking?
With only four fielders allowed outside the inner circle in the non Power Play overs now, batters had a merry time. A total of 42 sixes were hit across nine innings, the most in a bilateral series by a long distance. While ICC’s decision to promote power play to attract more viewers is understandable, one of the uniqueness of women’s cricket has been the even contest between bat and ball. Is it time to think about pushing the boundary line a bit further to restore parity?
Brownie points for Cricket South Africa
It was always known that the ODI series and the first two T20Is wouldn’t be telecast. But it led to such rage on social media, and Kaur said that she was “sad”, that Cricket South Africa and the official broadcaster made last-minute arrangements for those five matches to be live-streamed. There are many things not to like about cricket administrators, but in this case CSA scored some brownie points. There were more than 20,000 people watching the stream when Raj and Kaur completed the win in the second T20I even as the men’s teams of both the countries were busy playing, giving enough indication of a potential market to be tapped.