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Chennai: Back home after India’s third-place finish in the ICC Women’s World Cup, coach Sudha Shah is pleased with her team’s effort.
“We didn’t depend on one or two players; everyone contributed,” says the 50-year-old former international. Beating host Australia twice, she says, was particularly satisfying.
“It was pleasing, considering that we lost to them in the final last time. This was also the first time we beat Australia in Australia. We played a series there in October — five matches, lost all five. But when it really mattered, we beat them twice,” she says.Surge in self-belief
This change in fortunes, says Shah, came about due to a surge in self-belief. Asked whether this was triggered by bowling Pakistan out for 59 in the opening game, Shah points to an earlier game. “I think the girls really started believing in themselves after beating New Zealand in the practice match,” she says. India’s subsequent loss to New Zealand by five wickets in the Super Six ultimately cost it a place in the final. Says Shah of that game, “Our fielding really let us down in that match; we could have won had we fielded better.”
The only other match India lost in the tournament was a nine-wicket loss, after being bowled out for 169, to eventual champion England in a group game. “Against England, I’d say we batted badly,” says Shah. Overall, the coach thinks the batting performed adequately, despite only one Indian, Mithali Raj, making the top-10 run-getters list, compared to three from Australia and England, and two from New Zealand.
“Mithali has been a mainstay. Her innings against Sri Lanka (an unbeaten 75 out of India’s total of 137) was one of the better knocks I’ve seen. She makes batting look so easy,” says Shah. “But it wasn’t just her. Someone or the other always chipped in. Anjum (Chopra) scored runs, Anagha (Deshpande) scored runs. Reema Malhotra made a half-century (a 52-ball 59 against New Zealand)."
The conditions during the tournament, says Shah, made for low-scoring games. “The wickets were quite slow, probably because it was the end of the season. On some of them, making runs was quite difficult. Overall, the spinners did really well.”
This is reflected in the top-10 wicket-takers’ list, which numbers eight spinners. For India, leggie Priyanka Roy and slow left-armer Gouher Sultana, both just 20, picked up twelve and nine wickets in the tournament. Asked if their emergence has made up for Neetu David’s retirement in 2006, Shah says, “Actually, Neetu’s retirement did cause a big gap. Gouher bowled really well, Priyanka kept getting wickets; it did the team’s confidence a lot of good.”
Looking ahead, Shah expresses understated confidence about her young side’s (average age 24) chances in the 2013 edition. “The next World Cup is in India. We’re a very talented side. If we start preparing right away, we are definitely capable of winning it.”
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