The younger generation of Indian cricket is coming to the fore. In some style. They are fearless and willing to take the best on. They are fierce, undaunted against the formidable. The Women in Blue chasing that high a target, holding on when the chips were down and finally pulling it off in the super over against Australia was a tale of inspiration. It was out of the blue.
Smriti Mandhana is a player you will get once in a generation. The game was getting away from India, by the minute. The pressure was mounting. The chase was momentous, target monumental. And then she imposed herself in the game. Out came the biggest of hits at a time when runs were just beginning to dry up from the other end. That’s when the Mandhana magic unfurled. It was pure timing and power, and a lot of willpower as well. Beautiful to watch, even if you were a neutral.
It was not her alone, after India conceded a huge total. It was a pitch tailor made for batters alright, but 187 is no mean target to chase, anywhere, in any condition. There is scoreboard pressure and the additional psychological burden of chasing. Mandhana kept India in the game, with support from Shafali Verma in the beginning. And then there came Richa Ghosh when all seemed lost.
We have spoken about Mandhana in the past and will probably keep doing so for the next few years. She is special. Not many can combine finesse with power. This left-hander does that. She is unstoppable on her day. Continued exposure has done her game a world of good and it was on complete display during the time India batted during the 20 overs as well as in the super over.
What I liked most about the chase was the way the next generation took up the responsibility. You do depend on Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, but for how long? So out came guns blazing Verma in the beginning and then Ghosh. The latter’s effort was particularly commendable because it came at a time India were staring down the barrel, looking at defeat. Ghosh transformed the match with some amazingly clean hits, packed with power and decisive in nature.
This is the signature of the new India. They do not bother about who they are playing, what reputations they have. They take it one ball at a time, believe in playing it on merit. Unafraid of taking it on, these girls can hit it a long way. The three crushing sixes struck by Ghosh was a testament of that. It was a game-changing moment, even perception changing.
Of course, India owes this to a huge extent to the likes of Mandhana, Kaur and also to Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, who showed that this can be done. The traditionally superior sides can be matched. Most gratifying is the sight of the next generation stepping in and making a telling contribution. These Women in Blue are the future. Fielding needs improvement, so does the bowling. But as far as the spirit is concerned, they are on the right track. Go girls. The world is yours to be conquered.