Indian women faced abject humiliation after Bangladesh beat the six-time champions by three wickets to win their maiden Asia Cup trophy today.
The tournament turned out to be the most embarrassing for the ‘Women in Blue’ as they lost to the minnows twice inside a week.
The tournament also raised a big question mark about the utility of two veterans Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami in the shortest format even as the BCCI is forced to carry on with them due to lack of credible replacements.
Needing two off the last delivery of the match, Jahanara Alam hit rival skipper Harmanpreet Kaur towards deep mid-wicket and scampered home for a double to chase down a modest target of 113.
For India, it was Harmanpreet (56 off 42 balls, 2/19) and leg-spinner Poonam Yadav (4/9), who put up a semblance of fight as a below-par batting effort once again became their undoing.
Bangladesh skipper Salma Khatun decided to field and none of the Indian batters save Harmapreet (seven boundaries) looked comfortable against the Bangladesh attack.
Had it not been for Harmanpreet’s innings, India who had slumped to 62 for 5, would have been shot out for less than 100.
The worst part was the number of deliveries wasted by the top three batters — Mithali Raj (11 off 18 balls), Smriti Mandhana (7 off 12) and Deepti Sharma (4 off 11 balls).
India barely managed 21 runs in the Powerplay overs and never had the momentum going their way.
A lot of credit would got to left-arm spinner Nahida Akhtar (0/12 in 4 overs), who bottled up Mithali, whose T20 batting once again came under scanner. She was simply unable to get the boundaries. Deepti’s inability to produce big shots has always been a problem and it again became a factor in defeat.
With Veda Krishnamurthy (11 off 10 balls) also falling cheaply, it became increasingly difficult for Harmanpreet to bat freely.
Veteran Rumana Ahmed (2/22 in 4 overs) and off-spinner Khadija Tul Kubra (2/23 in 4 overs) inflicted the maximum damage.
Chasing a modest total, spinners Poonam and Ekta Bisht (0/13 in 4 overs) did try to bring India back in the match but Jhulan Goswami (0/20 in 2 overs) was expensive with the ball apart from being slow in the field.
Middle-order batswomen Nigar Sultana (27 off 24 balls) and Rumana Ahmed (23 off 22 balls) were the ones instrumental in Bangladesh’s successful chase.
Rumana’s only boundary – a drive through extra cover off Harmanpreet’s final over eased the pressure even though she was run out off the penultimate delivery.
CoA member Diana Edulji has been pretty active about starting a women’s IPL and the first step was taken with an exhibition match.
However, two defeats inside a week against Bangladesh, to whom India have never lost in either format before this tournament, indeed is a wake-up call.
While their contribution in popularising the women’s game is immense, Mithali and Jhulan haven’t contributed enough in India’s recent T20 campaigns.
While Mithali became the first Indian to complete 2000 T20 runs, her only decent score (97) came against Malaysia as she failed twice against Bangladesh apart from low scores against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Jhulan on the other hand has been inconsistent and also her slow movements on the field has cost India dearly at times.
India 112/9 in 20 overs (Harmnpreet Kaur 56 off 42 balls, Khadija Tul Kubra 2/23, Rumana Ahmed 2/22).
Bangladesh 113/7 in 20 overs (Nigar Sultana 27 off 24 balls, Rumana Ahmed 23 off 22 balls, Poonam Yadav 4/9, Harmanpreet 2/19).