The unusual art of crumbling under pressure

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safari
24 Sep 2021 | 11:22 PM
authorShweta Haranhalli

The unusual art of crumbling under pressure

A glaring issue that needs immediate attention from the Women in Blue

Thirteen runs needed off the final over, Jhulan Goswami, the leading wicket-taker in the world, was handed the responsibility of taking the Indian team through to a famous win. However, she was up against Beth Mooney, who single-handedly got the Australian side inches closer to the win courtesy of her unbeaten hundred at Mackay. 

After reeling at 52 for the loss of four wickets in a 275-run chase, not many people gave the Southern Stars a chance to make a comeback into this game. Coming into this high-voltage clash on the back of a 25-match winning streak, the Aussies were under the pump for the first time in the series. 

While the game ebbed and flowed with both teams having their moments through the day, it all boiled down to the final over of the innings to decide the fate of the three-match ODI series. 

Let us rewind the drama that unfolded in the last over:

Friday, 24th September, will go down as one of the greatest games in the history of the sport as both sides exhibited skills of the highest calibre to enthral the cricket frenzy fans all across the globe. 

49.1: An overthrow from Richa Ghosh helps the Australian side pick up an additional run after they complete a comfortable two through the square-leg region.

49.2: A misfield at short square-leg gives the home team a chance to come back for the second run, and Goswami misses a run-out opportunity at the non-striker end. 

49.3: A full-toss and it has smashed Nicola Carey into the grill. A definite no-ball and a brief stoppage in play due to the concussions protocols to be followed. 

49.3 Australia sneak a bye as Ghosh misses the stumps after Carey fails to connect to a well-directed yorker. 

49.4: Mooney attempts to play the ramp shot but fails to connect, and Australia run a single.

49.5 Carey smashes down the ground to long-on, and it is another misfield by the Indian fielder which allows them to come back for the second comfortably.  

49.6 Another waist-high full toss from Goswami as Carey manages to pull it straight into the hands of square-leg, and the Indian player are celebrating. However, the umpires go upstairs to check the legality of the delivery, and it is declared a no-ball, with the home team getting a free hit. 

49.6: Two needed off the final delivery, with the series on the line and their winning streak at risk; Carey carves a full-length delivery to long-on and Australia scamper for a double, much to the despair of the Indian team. 

It ain't over until it's over

Just as we sit back and try to make sense of how the innings panned out, one of the glaring issue that has hampered the Indian team in the recent past has been their inability to handle pressure situations. 

The visiting side were guilty of numerous lapses on the field in the back end of the innings with missed stumpings opportunities and chances not converted by the fielders during the final hour of play. 

Over the years, if you have been an ardent follower of the women's sport, especially the Indian team, it would help you understand one of the critical aspects of the game that needs intervention, the art of handling pressure. 

The ICC Women's World Cup in 2017 started a revolution back in India as Mithali Raj and her young contingent scripted history in the coveted tournament. Despite stuttering in the final frontier at the Home of Cricket, the Indian team created a massive impact on the young kids wanting to take up the sport. 

"There was a time where the match was in the balance, but we panicked," said Raj in the post-match presentation after the final. 

Chasing 229 runs for the World Cup, the Women in Blue were cruising at 191 runs for the loss of three wickets, with Punam Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy holding the fort for the visiting side. 

However, the pressure of the run chase in the summit clash, a chance to carve their name in the history of women's sport, resulted in the team squandering off a commanding position and fall agonisingly short by nine runs. 

Another classic example of the Indian team stumbling in the finals of the world event would be the 2018 Asia Cup held in Malaysia. Although the tournament was meant to be a stepping stone for the Indian team in trying out their combinations ahead of the T20 World Cup in West Indies, it opened up various issues the team needed to address before they embarked on their flight to the Caribbean. 

The Indian team failed to put substantial runs on the board and were restricted for 112 runs in the final encounter before Bangladesh chased it in the final delivery to script a famous win.

"It was a pressure game, and we had to control our nerves. We had to bat the situation and play to our skills. The batters didn’t handle nerves too well. There was nothing much in the wicket," said Harmanpreet Kaur after the loss. 

Five months later, the inability to handle the absorb the pressure and the nuances of the world event was precisely the reason behind India's loss in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup against England. The Women in Blue failed to handle the pressure of the knockout game and scored a below-par total of 112 runs upfront with the bat. 

While the batting looked clueless with a lack of intent and application on the big night, the spin-heavy bowling unit failed to create any impact leading to India's downfall. 

So close, yet so far

With plenty of fresh faces in the shortest format of the game, the Indian women's team sojourned to the southern hemisphere for the iconic T20 World Cup in Australia. A spirited performance in the league phase of the tournament ensured the Indian team reached the final four of the competition with a semi-final clash against England. 

While the rain helped India march to the summit clash by virtue of more wins during the group stage, the finale reflected the area the team needed to work on before the 50-over World Cup in 2022. 

In front of a packed stadium at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the nerves got the better of the Indian side as they faltered with bat and ball to hand Australia a resounding 85-run win. 

The final witnessed most Indian players fumbling with the ball as the packed MCG supported the home team in pursuit of their fifth title in this format. While young Shafali Verma handed Alyssa Healy a life in the first over, Deepti Sharma's inconsistent length too indicated the momentous occasion getting better of this young contingent. 

Decoding the reasons behind India's struggle with their old nemesis

"The way we played in the league games was outstanding. Today it was unfortunate that we dropped those catches, " said Harmanpreet after India suffered an 85-run loss in the finals. 

Eighteen months after their epic clash at the MCG, the two sides are on the opposite end of the spectrum. With the World Cup scheduled to commence on 4th March 2022, Australia looks like a settled unit with all the bases covered. 

However, the Indian team, on the other hand, has plenty to ponder if they aim to go a step further from their 2017 campaign. While most of the talk has been surrounding the middle-order muddle and the lack of depth in the pace bowling unit, the team management needs to address the incompetency of the team to absorb the pressure in a high-intensity game. 

Taking nothing away from the fact that they had an extraordinary campaign each time post the 2017 tournament, a minor tweak in the mindset of the players heading into the crucial games can help them unlock their potential and do wonders. 

However, with the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games scheduled to commence in the next couple of years, the Indian team will need radical changes in their approach towards the game in order to reap massive dividends.  

While they have showcased shades of brilliance in the past, indicating the great things to follow, the subsequent two years with a couple of major tournaments will test their skills to the hilt.

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India Women tour of Australia, 2021India WomenMithali RajHarmanpreet KaurJhulan Goswami

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