Amy Jones (England)and Smriti Mandhana (India). ©ICC

England’s one-run win over India in the final Twenty20 International brought the curtains down on what was a scintillating series. The three One-Day Internationals and three T20Is offered a lot of positives for both the teams. England would have liked to do better in the ODIs and India would have wanted the same in the T20Is.

Cricket is a game of emotions and if you let it get to you, then you are in for some trouble. This is exactly what we witnessed in this series. A perfect blend of aggression, composure and temperament. The only way is up for Indian cricket at the moment. They have been the team to beat when it comes to the ODI format and been pretty consistent in away as well as home venues. Beating New Zealand in New Zealand followed by another series win against the World Champions at home has been pretty comforting for the team management.

They have been spot on with our skills in the ODIs as there was less gap between the experience and the younger lot which paid off and led to series scoreline of 2-1.

Tables have turned drastically from the 2017 World Cup final as India now have become No.2 in the ICC Women’s Championship. Through the entire series India’s batting rallied around Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Mithali Raj. They have been the sheer architects of  their batting. With Harmanpreet Kaur’s unavailability due to an ankle injury the onus was more on these three as the middle-order lacked experience.

A fortnight ago, England were staring at a 0-3 whitewash in the ODIs but bounced back with a bang and clean swept India by 3-0 in the T20Is. There were many great performances in this series and both the teams were equally poised at the beginning of this thrilling encounter.

England’s top order struggled a bit in the ODI but came back very strong in the T20Is, showcasing a fearless brand of cricket that India needs to adapt. Natalie Sciver’s valiant innings in the second ODI, Danielle Wyatt’s and Heather Knight’s fighting innings were the highlight of their batting along with Tammy Beaumont who has been terrific at the top in the T20Is.

Sarah Taylor who we spoke so much about was not very impactful in this series. Their planning has been quite impressive in order to find a solution for India’s deadly spinners and tackle the batters as well.

Katherine Brunt leading the attack from the front, as always was very aggressive and effective. Anya Shrubsole, a veteran and a huge impact player has been around for a while. The youngsters did not fail to impress as well. Linsey Smith and Georgia Elwiss bowled beautifully after England suffered a huge blow in the form of Sophie Ecclestone being ruled out due to a finger injury.

A total team effort and a perfect bland of experience and youth in both the formats helped them bounce back from 1-2 in ODIs to 3-0 in T20Is. Some of their players have been going through anxiety issues (Taylor and Kate Cross) but the way they have handled them is very commendable and have been successful in getting performances out of them.

On the other hand, a lot of positives for India, the lethal attack of Shikha Pandey and Jhulan Goswami was so very consistent in the ODI series. The experience of Mithali and her sublime form was a class apart in both the formats. Smriti was declared the woman of the series in the ODIs. She was just unstoppable and made batting looks so easy. Jemimah on the other hand did not quite live up to the expectations. The bowling department overall has been a big strength for India over the years. Poonam Yadav has gotten better and better series after series, Ekta Bisht with her experience has got the knack of turning momentum in India’s favour more consistently.

There have been a lot of talks on tightening the screws in the domestic circuit and start playing a fearless brand of cricket because that’s when the youngsters can apply it on an international level. A lot of work needs to be done at the grassroot level and more and more tours have to be planned for India in order groom the players for a bigger stage. Starting Women’s IPL will also help to bridge this gap for the future of the sport in India.

As we have seen, middle order has been a major cause of concern for this valiant Indian side which now has lost seven consecutive T20Is – their longest streak in the format. Lack of experience was the main reason. I also feel the team management missed a trick or two by not getting the right combination in place.

To play at an international level, you have to be very dominating at the state level and be a match winner for your respective sides. This is the main criteria to be fulfilled in order to represent your country. At least, that was the case when I played for the country. Today, since the game has evolved and reached a whole new level its imperative the same is done more consistently at a domestic level. Therefore, the role of the selectors becomes very important.

To have a shot at any world event (T20 World Cup 2020 being the next big assignment) and excel, you have to start preparing way in advance and in order to get your combinations right, there needs to be a balance between experience and youngsters.

No team has ever won or dominated with a lot of fresh faces. This is something that India needs to take care of. You need to identify your match winners and mould them to play under pressure and fearlessly.  Also, on a comeback series, equal opportunities have to be given to players in order to prove the spot they have been selected for in order to add experience as well as stability in the side. Giving a senior player or a debutant just one game is totally uncalled for.

WV Raman, the coach, mentioned that the 3-0 result in T20Is wasn’t a true reflection of India’s capability in the format although he felt that there is scope for improvement in terms of skillset. “They have been playing good cricket but in T20 what you need is smart cricket under pressure. Young side, will learn along the way. Even though the scoreline says 3-0, not playing as well as we could, yet it was not a total washout in terms of the way we lost it. That’s heartening.

“First they need to work a lot on their skills. Once the development in terms of skills happen, then all other things come into play because tactically everybody is aware of what needs to be done, but tactics cannot be executed unless the technical base is good enough.”

Facing a seventh straight loss in T20Is, these things will have to be implemented pretty soon considering there is no series after this in the foreseeable future. We need to wait and watch what is being done unless something is planned by BCCI.

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