Depending on who you are and which side you were on, the finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 final would read in several ways. And while there are myriad ways of explaining what was a great game of cricket, I’m attempting at narrowing it down to the following:
1. If you were an Australian, you couldn’t possibly be more elated. The team picked a deserving and record fifth T20 World Cup crown. That’s more than any team put together, to this day. Their batters didn’t score runs; they pummeled them. The bowlers didn’t deceive Indian batters; they completely restricted them akin to tightening the noose around an old granny’s neck. India just couldn’t breathe; Australia delighted all this time.
2. If you were an Indian cricket fan, let’s just put it this way: you’ve seen better days. You couldn’t possibly believe that the very team that took the Mickey out of Australia, the last time around the two met in a T20 World Cup game, at Guyana’s Providence Stadium (November 17, 2018) found itself comfortably numbed.
Not that Pink Floyd fans would haven’t read a better analogy but as fans, you were distraught by the performance of a team that had made to the ultimate stage of a world cup contest, much prior to the hosts themselves.
3. That said, a third view suggests, if you were someone who admires a closely fought contest, one where the very template of the sport posits uncertainty, then you were robbed of it. Where was the thrill you asked? For the simple reason that there just weren’t many left anyway once it became clear which way the pendulum was swinging; India losing half their side inside 12 overs with 48 balls remaining of the contest.
But make no mistake.
It cannot be said that the Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 final was slated to fall in Australia’s lap all along, even as the hosts put on a daunting 184 on the board, losing no more than 4 wickets.
While we cannot turn an eye away from what was perhaps the most important inning of this event- Beth Mooney’s 78 off 54- must we ask ourselves a question.
Did India, featuring big names- Mandhana, Harmanpreet, Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy and the flair of youngsters like Jemimah- who’ve excelled in big stages like this one-of-a-kind event not have it in them to chase down 185?
That said, what critical features defined the Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 final?
In other words, what events formed the game-changing part of a clash witnessed by 86,174 fans (according to the ICC numbers) and that too, on the International Women’s day?
Alyssa Healy Plays The Destroyer
There’s no rocket science in understanding what happens when Alyssa Healy gets going. Spectators not only become fielders but also do so uncomplainingly in what usually becomes a run-fest.
So on March 8, 2020, Australia’s most powerful batter ensured MCG became a Mecca of an outrageous run plodding.
And the great cricket venue can never complain that a Healy-special didn’t light up what turned into a mega outing for the Australian team.
But to be fair to bowlers, there isn’t a lot that one can do when a batswoman of immense power and the gift of finding the gaps get going.
Alyssa Healy was the big creator of problems for the Indian bowlers in a contest where the bowling already had too much to deal with, the most economical that anyone wearing the blue jersey could manage were returns of 7.25 an over: Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
Truth be told, one hopes several years from now, even those who are still biased about the women’s game will sit down with their posterity and narrate tales of the swashbuckle and power that Healy demonstrated in one wild knock that lasted for just 39 balls but produced 75 runs.
In fact, why head so much into the future?
Tales deserve to be told to the current generation thrilled by the very sight of a woman taking guard about the belligerent right-hander’s knock, one that produced 5 sixes and 7 boundaries.
Beth Mooney Was Simply Outstanding
There are all different kinds of batswomen around in the great game today. Some are ferocious and leave little to the imagination. Picture Healy. Others play the waiting game. Picture Mithali Raj.
Then there are those who align power and the gift of timing while playing the waiting game. Beth Mooney, the “Player-Of-The-Series”, for her 259 runs, 3 half-centuries, 31 boundaries in all, and 2 not- outs, falls in this latter category.
Yet, she’s someone who cannot be bracketed or contained in adjectives for this super talent is yet to reach her peak.
Though, what one can say without much ado is that Australia are in very fine hands given the Victorian, who’s just 26, is already nearing 1500 T20 runs, from a career that only began in 2016.
In fact, Beth Mooney couldn’t have chosen a better stage to rise to her very top, opting the Women’s T20 World Cup final as the occasion to destruct the very team against whom she’d marked her T20I debut.
In her 54-ball-knock that produced 78 classy runs, Beth Mooney played the anchor, upon losing her opening partner, the gap-finder on either side of the wicket, and the top scorer who’s imperturbable half-century lifted Australia to their second-highest score in the tournament.
A knock of immense value and great determination, Mooney’s cautious initial approach played the perfect foil to Healy’s dismissive ways. Later, stitching a useful mini-stand with her captain, Mooney quite simply held on to an end and didn’t let the constant felling of wickets- Lanning, Gardner, Haynes departing inside 3 overs- deter her for even a second.
In the end, what could’ve been better than seeing the Australian emerge unbeaten in a magnificent outing with the bat?
The Captain Disappointed Again, As Did The Rest Of The Batters Barring Deepti Sharma
It doesn’t increase one’s cerebral powers a bit to know the Indian captain had a horrible run with the bat all throughout the event.
If there’s a game Harmanpreet Kaur would’ve so wanted to score in, not only for she’s one of the finest batters around but also had to contribute for it was high time, then it was the Women’s T20 World Cup final 2020.
Frankly speaking, Kaur owed the team some runs, as did Smriti Mandhana. But in the final contest, it was upsetting beyond measure to see India’s captain last for only 7 deliveries while the other experienced and big-scoring gun- Smriti Mandhana- bat for only 8 deliveries.
Two batswomen who’ve not only inspired hundreds of girls in their country to pick up the bat are also somewhat totemic figures today, on whom we lavish effusive praise.
But the greats find a way to glitter amid difficulties- don’t they?
Is it time Mandhana and Kaur, in particular, took a good hard look at themselves? If the captain cannot lead by an example and there are enough examples to quote from this special event- think of Meg Lanning’s semi-final knock of 49 and Sri Lanka’s Athapaththu’s resounding scores with the bat- then who will the team look up to?
Frankly, Australia Had The Edge Even On The Mental Side Of Things
Dropped catches, listless bowling, silly errors of judgment while fielding, and in the end, a performance that lacked spirit and importantly, the fight- India, it goes without saying, would be utterly disappointed by their performance.
That’s not the stuff you expect from a world-beating side, one that, right at the beginning of this very event, caused the major upset by beating the hosts.
Moreover, India’s performance also alluded to a rather uncomfortable question that perhaps the fan-boy culture would immediately loathe:
Was this side even deserving of reaching the final, given luckless England and the Proteas Women, who until their defeat against India’s captors (in the semi-final) had won every single contest they played?
Thankfully, that’s a question and performance the team has to answer and reflect upon for the fan, who has seen far more hunger and eagerness from his doting side, doesn’t have a say in it.
Yet, one mustn’t turn a blind eye on some blaring questions-
Was Shikha Pandey bowling to a plan? What did the team achieve by bowling in Healy’s zone?
How effective was the captaincy when mid-on and mid-off weren’t asked to get back post the power-play?
How costly was the dropped chance of Healy, then batting on 9?
Has the time come to ask some serious questions of Indian batting: was there a Plan-B in the wake of Shafali Verma falling early (which is precisely what happened to the team in the end)?
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