Australia won the World Twenty20 to break a four-year trophy drought. ©ICC
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It’s not even a week since Meg Lanning’s Australia beat England in the final to win the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. It was the first standalone Women’s World T20 and was hailed as an overall success even as Australia broke their trophy drought after more than four years.

As fans get ready for the start of the fourth edition of Women’s Big Bash League in Australia and the resumption of the domestic season in India, here’s a look back at some of the articles from around the web in the last few weeks, indicating a strong rise in the reporting and scrutiny of women’s cricket.

Women’s World Twenty20 was a joy to be a part of (The Guardian)
An outright success. That’s the overwhelming feeling of everyone who was fortunate to be a part of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2018. The first standalone World T20 for women, with every match broadcast for the first time, meant no double headers with the men, no sharing of media outlets, and playing during the time slots to maximise viewership and attendance at the grounds.

Why women’s domestic cricket needs a leg-up (ESPNcricinfo)
The two finalists in the Women’s T20 World Cup – as the World T20 was renamed by the ICC on Friday – represent far more than form or even talent; they are a direct reflection of the investment made by their boards in women’s domestic cricket. The Women’s Big Bash League and the Kia Super League are the only high level women’s T20 competitions in the world. Should it surprise anyone that the two squads emerging largely from those competitions have the greatest depth or the experience to adapt and cope with high-pressure situations?

Women’s World T20 2018: Importance of domestic leagues, widening gap between top and bottom, other key takeaways (Firstpost)
The very first day of the tournament saw 6,483 people throng the gates in Guyana for a triple-header involving India, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh. St. Lucia — the home of Group A — also entertained a crowd of more than 5,000 for the matches between West Indies and Sri Lanka, and the hosts and South Africa. The knockouts reflected the growing popularity of the sport with as many as 8,916 people attending the semi-finals and more than 9,000 coming through the gates for the final in Antigua. In addition to this, there were millions around the world watching on television or following the match online or on social media. There were many talking points through the tournament — the power hitting, slow bowling, five-run penalties, the retirement of Ireland’s experienced quartet. and of course, India’s somewhat controversial selection that arguably led to their exit in the semi-final.

Women’s T20 world-beaters give Australia reason to be proud (The Guardian)
It wasn’t the type of image that we are conditioned to seeing: Meg Lanning, legs splayed around the midriff of Ashleigh Gardner as the World T20 winning runs were struck. The Australian captain’s comparative advantage across her celebrated career to date has been control, be it at the crease or behind the mic, underpinned by her peerless powers of concentration. Yet here she was, instinctively giving herself over to the moment, completely and entirely.

Haynes’ selflessness at heart of Australia’s T20 triumph (ESPNcricinfo)
“Internally we kept thinking ‘she’s in such great form, should we move her up the order and make sure she’s facing more balls’, but she herself said ‘that’s my role, I’m really comfortable’, so it was huge,” Matthew Mott, Australia’s coach, told ESPNcricinfo. “The icing on the cake was Rach coming in and doing that at the end and got a lot of momentum back at the back end of the innings, which is huge in T20, if you can go into that break with a bit of a kick along. But she just played it so well.

Alyssa Healy: ‘I’m at the top of the order – the free mindset is paying off’ (The Guardian)
The adaptation, Healy explains, was partially informed by captains setting fielders predominantly on the legside in the deep, so she shifted accordingly. That trait was a key feature of her semi-final hand on Thursday upon realising the pitch was far too slow to play as she otherwise might. “From that first ball we thought: ‘Oh dear, this could be interesting.’” So she got active, using the depth and width of the crease to make the best of it alongside Meg Lanning, who was equally creative in the way she worked the ball.

Sophie Molineux keeps calm and bowls on (ESPNcricinfo)
“I never really fully appreciated those who bowl in the Powerplay until I did it myself,” Molineux says of her new-ball responsibilities, which she juggled with operating in the middle overs and at the death through the group stage at the World T20, her first world tournament. “Having done that in the last couple of series, I must say it’s quite a difficult thing to do, because you have to be really clear on your plans

‘Raw’ England captain Heather Knight rues ‘disappointing’ World T20 final (The Guardian)
For England it was a frustrating end to a campaign that was full of promise, the side exceeding pre-tournament expectations to reach the final even without leading players Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt. Amy Jones, Taylor’s understudy, finished as England’s leading run-scorer across the tournament with a tally of 107. England’s three debutants – Linsey Smith, Sophia Dunkley and Gordon – also performed well, Gordon the side’s leading wicket-taker with eight at an economy rate of just over five. She was named in the ICC’s team of the tournament alongside teammates Jones and Anya Shrubsole.

Here’s Why Australia and England’s Youngsters Outdid India’s at WWT20 (Cricketnext)
The Australian squad has an average age of 25. The average age of the England squad is also 25. By that yardstick, this tournament should have been right up India’s alley, seeing as how they have an average age of 24 (and 22 for the XI that took the field). It so nearly was, except youth only takes you so far. On paper, it seemed that India had come into the tournament with the right preparation: India played 27 T20Is since the 2016 World T20, more than any other country. But a large chunk of their squad had been blooded only in the last six to eight months. 

India women have now lost five semis and two finals, and it’s time the BCCI plan for a trophy (Economic Times)
“Unfortunately after the World Cup last year, precious little was done,” Mamatha Maben, the former India captain who is now Karnataka’s coach. “If you look at the senior state teams, so many of their matches have been taken off. There should be a visionary approach with a five-year plan. With the skill we displayed in 50-over and 20-over World Cups with little support, it tells how much we can do with a bit more systematic approach.” The next big event is the World T20 in Australia in 2020. There is time to plan for it. Maybe start Women’s IPL to give players exposure. How BCCI treats the next two years will show how serious they are about women’s cricket.

The World T20 is History, Women’s Cricket in India Now Needs Clear Roadmap (CricketNext)
The semifinal defeat apart, India were stellar through the league stages, winning all their four games to top the group table and make it to the World T20 semifinals for the first time in eight years. While Mithali’s experience in the wins against Pakistan and Ireland was invaluable, the exuberance of youth was most noticeable. However, now the tournament is over, what next for the women’s game in India? 

For Harmanpreet and women’s cricket, the future might be now (The Hindu)
The player known widely as the Sehwag of the women’s game, Harmanpreet, had already made her mark on the tournament with a stunning century against New Zealand. There is an insouciance about her strokeplay which evokes Sehwag’s style, and an inevitability about clearing the field that brings to mind the self-confidence of another six-hitter, Chris Gayle. But the comparisons are unfair, and I should apologise for falling into that trap here myself. Women cricketers have to be assessed on their own merits and styles, and attempts at making them more accessible by comparison to their male counterparts are patronising.

The girl who took women’s cricket to the next level (ESPNcricinfo)
Cricketer’ – that’s what I used to say as a kid whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to become,” Harmanpreet says. “I had no clue how I could become a cricketer, which team to play for. All I knew was that I wanted to be a cricketer.”

Poonam Yadav, India’s pint-sized magician (ESPNcricinfo)
With a low release point – due to her height – much of Poonam’s efficacy as a legspinner comes from the generous loop she imparts, and the pace she denies the batsmen. The slowness of her deliveries often draws an erroneous reading of length from even the most established batsmen, and forces them to generate all the power themselves, which can make her extremely difficult to get away in limited-overs cricket, particularly on slow pitches. Now she’s made an important addition to her arsenal.

Why India erred by leaving out Mithali Raj (ESPNcricinfo)
And so, as one India batsman after another squandered the launch pad set by Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues in Antigua, the cameras panned to Raj. Sitting without the bib meant for substitutes, she was typically expressionless. It was the first time since her debut tour in 1999 that she wasn’t part of an Indian XI despite being available. Was it a good decision? Social media didn’t think so.

Why India shouldn’t be faulted for dropping Mithali Raj (Cricbuzz)
Team management’s decision to stick with its winning combination from the last of its league games – where they’d convincingly thrashed Australia to top their pool – created a social media outrage. Everything ranging from backlash to name-calling came India’s way, with Harmanpreet at the centre of it. The ‘winning combination’ that the Indian captain fielded and later vehemently defended was one without Raj, who carried an knee injury niggle against Ireland, missed the game vs Australia but passed fit on the eve of the knockout fixture against England.

What do the numbers say: Should Mithali Raj have been dropped at all? (Scroll)
Leaving Mithali Raj out of the semi-final lineup at the ICC Women’s World T20 against England was always going to leave India open to criticism if they lost. Raj’s 575 runs in 2018 make her the fifth highest scorer this year, and her seven half-centuries in 2018 are the most by any woman in a calendar year. Consecutive scores of 56 and 51 vs Pakistan and Ireland respectively made Raj one of just two batters, the other being player of the tournament Alyssa Healy, to score two half-centuries at the 2018 edition.

‘Deflated, depressed and let down’ – Mithali Raj (ESPNcricinfo)
Mithali Raj has accused India women head coach Ramesh Powar and former captain Diana Edulji – a member of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) supervising the BCCI’s operations – of leaving her “deflated, depressed and let down” with their actions during the recently concluded World T20 in the Caribbean.

Mithali Raj threatened to retire if she couldn’t open – Ramesh Powar (ESPNcricinfo)
The drama surrounding Mithali Raj has taken another twist with head coach Ramesh Powar stating in an official report to the BCCI that the player had threatened to pull out of the Women’s World T20 and announce her retirement if she was not allowed to open. Powar has also said Raj, who is India’s ODI captain, should stop “blackmailing and pressurising” coaches and putting her interests ahead of the team’s.

India at WT20: A tale of outstanding skills, ego clashes, and a severe lack of introspection (Wisden)
A word that has often been used by the Indians over the past two months is “fearless”, and the emphasis is on “expressing yourself” through “fearless” cricket. But fearless will only pay full dividends when it isn’t something that is switched on or off in the middle. It needs to be a whole environment – and it should include the courage to shed any ego, put team above self and be willing to change plans.

Mithali Raj controversy: Time to appoint Smriti Mandhana skipper in all formats, scrap dual captaincy formula (Firstpost)
The BCCI, distracted and reactive, have let two power-centres form in the women’s team, two that may now find it difficult to coexist. One may not make it to 2021, and the other most likely will, though the thought of her leading India does not make you entirely comfortable (especially if you are a teenager). So the solution may lie in middle-ground. Mithali is 35, and not the leader for the future, even in the ODI format. Harmanpreet is 29, and could lead India to the next World Cup, but what then? So perhaps it is time for the captaincy to pass to Smriti Mandhana.

Laura Wolvaardt: Meet South Africa cricket’s teenage sensation (BBC)
“Batting is just my favourite thing to do; it’s my hobby,” said Wolvaardt. “Whenever I’m busy with exams or something and I have an hour off, I go and bat because that’s what I like to do for fun. I train at a place really close to my house and I just give the coach a call and then we hit a few balls to relieve some stress.”

Why women’s cricket appeals to all cricket watchers now (ESPN)
As a commentator I have been covering women’s cricket for a while, and I have seen it change in front of my eyes. Earlier, well, the inevitable comparison with men’s cricket came into your head as you watched the women in action. It seemed then that it took a great effort for them to do things like run in and bowl; it felt like they were bowling with an iron ball rather than a leather one, and it seemed like it was a real strain on the seam bowlers to deliver the ball, before it then went in a loop towards the batsman. I remember when I was a school cricketer, our coaches used to organise friendly fixtures with women’s teams, and the contests would turn out very close, us kids versus them adults.

In Guyana, memories of a radical band of women (Wisden)
The place is teeming with cricket history, especially for an Indian cricket tragic. The first time the Indian men’s team defeated the mighty West Indies in an ODI was in Guyana, just three months before the World Cup final at Lord’s in 1983 that changed everything. But, amazingly, that was not the first team from India that played on these shores. And Harmanpreet’s side was not the first set of Indian women to venture to these parts. That feat belongs to the India Club, way back in 1979.

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