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Indian women aim for maiden World T20 crown

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India

Providence (Guyana) | A young Indian squad will aim to emerge from the shadows of a winless past when it launches its bid for a maiden title with a tough opener against New Zealand in the first standalone Women’s World T20 starting here Friday.

India have not been very competitive in the shortest format compared to the 50-over game in which they scripted a path-breaking moment last year when they reached the World Cup final.  In the end, nerves got the better of them and they lost the title clash to England after being in complete control at one stage.

Captain Harmanpreet Kaur and recently-appointed coach Ramesh Powar insist that the team has learnt from that final loss and the presence of youngsters, including six World Cup debutants, makes the squad “fearless”.

India have never won the World T20 in their previous five attempts with their best result, a semifinal appearance, coming in 2009 and 2010. This is the first stand-alone World T20 for women after being held alongside the men’s event in the past editions.

In the lead-up to the World T20, India have hit good form, beating hosts Sri Lanka before blanking Australia A at home. What should give them additional confidence going into the opener is the wins against reigning champions West Indies and England in the warm-up matches.

Opener Smriti Mandhana, on whom India will be relying heavily in the Caribbean, said the Asia Cup T20 final loss to Bangladesh in June was a timely wake-up call. “After the setback in the Asia Cup, everyone went back and worked hard. You can see everyone is up to the mark where you need to be at the international standard,” said Mandhana, who is also the vice-captain. “The Sri Lanka series has been really good. For me personally, I didn’t get really good scores, but one match, Harmanpreet and I didn’t score a single run and we got 170. That was brilliant. “The bowlers too have improved massively in last three months, they are clear with their plans. And fielding wise, we are 10 percent better than in the last World Cup,” added Mandhana, who will open alongside veteran Mithali Raj.

While Mandhana’s performance will be crucial at the top, teenager Jemimah Rodriguez, Tanya Bhatia and Harmanpreet will make up the middle order.  The spin department, led by leggie Poonam Yadav, is India’s strength while the pace department lacks experience after the retirement of veteran Jhulan Goswami.

India have failed to go past the group stage in the previous three editions and they will have to play well consistently to advance to the knock-outs. After the opener against New Zealand, India will face Pakistan on November 11, Ireland on November 15 and three-time champions Australia on November 17. Coach Powar, a former India off-spinner, has high expectations from his team.

“They know that if we grow as individuals, the team grows, the Indian women’s cricket grows, and people will start noticing the game in India and around the world,” Powar told the ICC’s official website. “When you enter such tournaments, you have to break records, get noticed as an individual and team also, so I’m looking forward to that,” he added.

India squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Anuja Patil, Mithali Raj, Arundathi Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav.

New Zealand squad: Amy Satterthwaite (c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout (wk), Sophie Devine, Kate Ebrahim, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katey Martin, Anna Peterson, Harriet Rowe, Lea Tahuhu, Jess Watkin.

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AIBA Women’s World Championships: ‘Magnificent Mary’ in quarters, Sarita bows out

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Mary Kom

New Delhi | Five-time champion M C Mary Kom punched her way into the 48kg quarterfinals while another veteran Sarita Devi made an early exit after losing a hard-fought 60kg bout in the AIBA Women’s World Championships here on Sunday.

Chasing a historic sixth gold and first medal since 2010, the 35-year-old Mary Kom registered a convincing 5-0 win over Aigerim Kessenayeva of Kazakhstan in her opening bout of the tournament.

The 36-year-old Sarita, who won a gold in the 2006 edition when it was also held in the Capital city, lost to 2016 World Champonships silver medallist Kellie Harrington of Ireland in a split 3-2 verdict. Sarita, who got a standing count against her opponent in the third round, later said the decision was wrong. She, however, said that she will accept the decision as she does not want another ban.  The Manipuri was handed a one year ban by the world body AIBA for refusing to accept her bronze medal in protest during the victory ceremony at the 2014 Asian Games.

Besides Mary Kom, three other Indians — Manisha Moun (54kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Kachari Bhagyabati (81kg) — also made it to the quarterfinals with 5-0, 5-0 and 4-1 wins on points in their respective pre-quarterfinal bouts.  Five Indians took the field on Sunday and only Sarita lost her bout. They are now just one step away from clinching a medal.

Mary Kom began with a watchful approach in the first round but she got to her rhythm with a left-right combination on her opponent in the second round. There were no many clear punches from both sides but the Manipuri, a mother of three, was clearly the better boxer with all the five judges giving their nod. Four judges gave 30-27 each while one awarded 29-28 in favour of the Indian.

“It was a tough fight and there was a bit of pressure as it was my first bout of the tournament. I have been handling the pressure of expectation from the people of my country for the last 16 years and I am happy to face this pressure,” said the Olympic bronze medallist. Mary Kom next face Wu Yu of China in the quarterfinal on Tuesday. “I think she is an intelligent boxer and fast also. I have to think about which technique I have to use,” she said.

A win on Teusday will assure Mary Kom of at least a bronze medal which will be her first since 2010. Sarita and Harrington traded a lot of punches in their lightweight pre-quarterfinal bout which was a fast and intense affair. The veteran Indian, who also competed in the inaugural World Championships in 2001, expressed surprise when the Irishwoman was declared the winner.

“I am not happy with the decision (of the judges). The decision has gone ‘ulta’ (opposite), I thought I had the upperhand in all the three rounds. But what do I do, I was banned for one year after the 2014 Asian Games controversy. So, I cannot say anything now,” she said after her bout. “I don’t know why these things happen to me only.”

About the standing count against her in the third round, she said, “It was not a standing count. My opponent was a southpaw and her legs got entangled in between mine and I slipped and fell.” The day began on a happy note for India with Manisha sending reigning world champion Dina Zhalaman of Kazakhstan packing with yet another authoritative win in 54kg to place herself just a step away from grabbing a maiden medal.

The 20-year-old Manisha won a 5-0 unanimous verdict against her more experienced rival in a pre-quarterfinal bout in her maiden World Championships. This was the second win of the Haryana girl against Zhalaman as she had defeated the Kazakh boxer in the Silesian Women’s Boxing championship in Poland earlier this year.

In the quarterfinals, Manisha faces top seed and 2016 World Championships silver medallist Stoyka Petrova of Bulgaria. “For me, once I am inside the ring it does not matter whether my opponent is a world champion or a silver medallist. So, my approach will be the same in my next bout also,” she said. “Today, like on my first bout, I played from a distance but I played faster and more aggressive. It was a good bout.”

Borgohain, an Asian Championships bronze medallist last year, had a tougher fight against 2014 World Championships gold medallist Atheyna Bylon od Panama. It was a physical and aggressive fight and both the boxers fell on the floor on more than one occasion. The 21-year-old Assamese next faces Scott Kaye Frances of Australia in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

For Bhagyabati, it was even tougher against a taller opponent Irina-Nicoletta Schonberger of Germany. But the Indian also turned out winner in her debut World Championships bout. She now faces Paola Jessica Caicedo of Columbia in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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No team travels well nowadays, why pick on India, questions Ravi Shastri

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Ravi Shashtri

Brisbane | India are yet to shed their “poor travellers” tag but head coach Ravi Shastri feels that it’s unfair to pick on one particular side when most of the nations have fared poorly on away tours.

India have lost two away Test series in 2018, against South Africa (1-2) and England (1-4). This was after both tours were seen as best chance for Virat Kohli’s men to set the poor overseas record straight.

Asked how important it is for India to win the series in Australia, Shastri said:”You have got to learn from your mistakes. When you go overseas and when you look at teams that travel around now, there aren’t too many sides (that travel well).  “Australia did for some time in the 90’s and during the turn of century. South Africa did it for a while and other than these two,in the last five-six years, you tell me which team has travelled well. Why pick on India?” questioned Shastri.

Questioned whether he or skipper Kohli has spoken to the team as to why they lost in South Africa and England, Shastri said that it was all about “seizing big moments”. “We have spoken about seizing the big moments. If you look at the Test matches, the scoreline really doesn’t tell you the real story. There were some real tight Test matches and we lost some big moments badly, which cost us the series at the end of it. “It could have been an hour in a session over four days whether it was SA or England. Either as a batsman or a bowler and see what happens after that,” the coach said in his team’s defence.

Shastri refused to believe that Australian team has lost its aura after what all happened during the past few months. “I don’t think so. I think once you have a sporting culture in you, you will always have that. I have always believed that no team is weak at home. We might have three or four players not playing when a team comes to India God forbid but if anyone thinks it’s a weak team, you will be surprised. “Similarly, we are taking no prisoners and we want to go out and put our best foot forward, focussing on our game rather than focussing outside,” he sounded cautious.

He is confident that his pacers will enjoy bowling on Australian pitches.  “I think they (pacers) should enjoy bowling on these pitches if it’s like the pitches we have seen in the past. It’s important to stay fit as a unit.”

Shastri broadly dropped a hint that injured Hardik Pandya’s absence robs them a chance to play an extra bowler. Even former Australian batsman Mike Hussey recently spoke about how Pandya’s absence can hurt India.

“One player we will miss is Hardik Pandya, who has had an injury. He gave us that balance as a bowler as well as batsman, which allowed us to play that extra bowler. Even now we have got to think twice. Hopefully, he will get fit soon and if fast bowlers do well, we might not miss him then,” the former all-rounder said.

Asked if this is the best chance for India’s fast bowlers, Shastri said it will depend on if they can maintain “sustained intensity” for a long period of time.

“It doesn’t matter what line-up they play as long as they are consistent. In the past, we have had one or two bowlers doing well in spells, but bowling as a unit for three, four or five hours with sustained intensity, if that comes into play, no matter which batting line-up you are playing against, you will be tested,” he added.

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Women’s World T20: Mandhana hits 83 to set up India’s 48 run win over Australia

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India

Providence (Guyana) | Opener Smriti Mandhana smashed a career-best 83 before Indian slow bowlers spun their web against Australia to continue their invincible run with a 48-run win in a group B match of the ICC Women’s World Cup here on Saturday.

Mandhana blasted 9 fours and 3 sixes in her 55-ball innings and shared a 68-run third wicket partnership with skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (43 runs off 27) to power India to a competitive 167 for 8 at the Providence Stadium here.

The spinners then got into the act with Anuja Patil (3/15) taking three wickets and Poonam Yadav (2/28), Radha Yadav (2/13) and Deepti Sharma (2/24) snapping two each to restrict Australia for 119-9 in 19.4 overs. Alyssa Healy was absent hurt following a collision with Megan Schutt in the Indian innings.

India thus notched up their fourth victory in as many matches to top group B. They will now take on either England or West Indies in the second semifinals. Both India and Australia were already in the semifinals after winning the first three matches in group B.

Chasing 168 to win, Beth Mooney (19) and Elyse Villani (6) opened the innings after in-form Healy didn’t come out to bat following a collision during the Indian innings which left the wicket-keeper batsman with mild concussion. Mooney and Villani gave Australia a decent start, sharing 27 runs in 4 overs.

However, Deepti Sharma struck twice in successive balls, removing both the openers as Australia slipped to 27 for 2 in 4.2 overs. A few overs later, Australia lost their skipper Meg Lannings (10) with Krishnamurthy taking a good catch at deep midwicket off Radha Yadav’s bowling.  Poonam Yadav then got rid off Ashleigh Gardner (20) with Veda Krishnamurthy taking another catch at long-off when the batsman tried to play another big shot.

India continued to put pressure on the Australians before Perry blasted three boundaries in the 15th over off Harmanpreet to ease the pressure. Poonam then returned to pick up another wicket when she deceived RL Haynes with her flight and wicket-keeper Taniya Bhatia did the rest. The Australia innings crumbled after that even as EA Perry scored an unbeaten fighting 28-ball 39 laced with three fours and a six.

Earlier, Mandhana became the second fastest Indian to compete 1000 runs in T20 internationals after Mithali Raj as she anchored the innings with a superb fifty. Mandhana gave India a good start after her fellow opening batswoman Taniya Bhatia (2) was dismissed in the second over, being caught by Lanning at midwicket off Gardner’s ball.

Australia picked up a second Indian wicket in the 7th over when Delissa Kimmince dismissed Jemimah Rodrigues (6). Skipper Harmanpreet then joined Mandhana in the middle as the duo dominated the bowlers. Harmanpreet smashed Molineux over midwicket for her first six, while a beautiful-looking sweep shot helped Mandhana to complete her fifty in 31 balls. Harmanpreet then hoisted one over extra cover off Gardner to pick up her second six as India reached 83 for 2 in 10 overs. The Indian skipper continued to find boundaries, making life difficult for the Australian bowlers. In the 14th over, Harmanpreet slapped one over extra cover before depositing a full toss by Kimmince over short fine leg.

However an attempt to go for another big shot proved fatal as she was caught by Haynes to leave India at 117 for 3 in 13.3 overs. In the next over, Mandhana too was on her way back to the hut when she was adjudged LBW by the on-field umpire but she survived after a video referral showed the ball pitched outside leg. India however lost a bit of ground in the end following the quick wickets of Veda Krishnamurthy and Dayalan Hemalatha within a space of four balls.

In the 18th over, Mandhana hit a six and a four off Kimmince as India amassed 17 runs but Schutt removed the opener in the next over. There was also an unfortunate collision in the 19th over between Megan Schutt and wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy as both went for a catch, following a miscued hit by A Reddy.

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