Hopeful of India breaking the jinx in the 2021 ODI World Cup, says Hemlata Kala

The Indian team stand dejectedly after losing the final of the T20 World Cup. © Getty Images

Hemlata Kala, the chief selector of the outgoing panel, feels India’s inability to handle pressure during big moments has prevented them from winning a major global tournament yet.

“Players have to be ready to play the big games, but they were not despite having a good mix of youth and experience,” Kala told PTI in an interview.

“The batting failure also cost us. May be they were under pressure. In 2017, it was a massive batting collapse too. We were 191 for three, chasing 229 but we were not able to. There was no reason to panic, but we did.”

“And the issue of handling pressure remains till date though the team is fully capable of going all the way and has shown that by beating top teams (Australia and England) regularly. We tend to falter in the final, pressure has a played a role in that.”

The 44-year-old, who has been the chief selector since 2016, believes India can consistently compete with the likes of Australia and England. “We beat Australia in the semi-finals (2017 Cricket World Cup) with Harmanpreet (Kaur) playing a blinder and we also beat them in the league of World T20 next year.”

Kala doesn’t agree with Kaur’s observation that India are some years behind Australia, but feels India should learn to handle pressure.

“I won’t agree with that, but if it is about handling pressure in big games, Australia are used to handling pressure, we are not. We beat them in 2017 (semis), 2018 (league stage) and now also we beat them in the league stage in the last edition,” she said.

“Like I said, we need to figure out how to handle pressure in finals. I am hopeful the team breaks the jinx in the 2021 ODI World Cup.”

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Kala, who represented India in 86 matches across formats, backs Kaur for the leadership role despite the criticism from some quarters in light of the 2020 T20 World Cup defeat.

“I don’t think there is any better leader than Harman in the current squad. Performance is different, it can go up and down, but it is equally important to have a leader in the group. She thinks like one and should continue in T20s and take over from Mithali (Raj) once she retires from ODIs. That was the thinking of our panel.”

“I can’t say much about what happened there. We have no role in selecting the 11, our job is to pick the best 15,” said Kala about the decision to drop Raj from the playing eleven during the 2018 T20 World Cup semi-final.

Kala had some special words for Shafali Verma, young Indian opener and picked her as the future of women’s cricket.

“She will be the queen of women’s cricket globally provided she continues to work hard on her game. She needs to work on her fitness and she knows that,” she said.

“When I saw her for the first time in an Under-23 game in Rajkot last year, I was sure she would go on to win the World Cup for India. She almost did that for us in Australia.”

Kala is of the opinion that India need more A tours to groom medium pacers to support the experienced duo of Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey.

Shikha Pandey and Jhulan Goswami have formed a lethal new-ball pair for India. © Getty Images

Shikha Pandey and Jhulan Goswami have formed a lethal new-ball pair for India. © Getty Images

“Pacers are there but not of the calibre of Jhulan and Shikha,” she said. “You need time to groom them. India A tours have started now, so that will also help. If they had started in 2017, maybe we would have got more medium pacers by now.”

“Every year there is a Word Cup, then we also end up going mostly with the experienced than a complete fresher, unless she is an outstanding player like Shafali.”

Kala, who played for India in its inaugural T20I match, is hopeful of a six team Women’s IPL happening in two-three years.

“BCCI has done a good job with the Women’s T20 Challenge but I don’t think we are ready for more than four teams. It will take another two-three years before we can have a six-team IPL,” Kala added.

“It is not just about playing; the standard of cricket should be high and entertaining so it attracts the fans. So many people started watching the women’s game after Harman scored 171 in the 2017 World Cup semi-final.”