Cricket International

No reason to feel “gloomy” — Shubhangi to India women’s team

The loss may have been crushing and devastating for fans who were convinced the Cup was India’s but the lessons have been huge too. For former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni, the journey at the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup was nothing short of “glory on the best stage.”

Speaking to Sportstar from California, she insisted there was no reason to feel “gloomy” for the 85-run defeat at the hands of Australia on Sunday. “Yes, the gap between the two teams looks big when you see the end result but the same girls beat Australia in the opening match. It only confirms the spectacular progress India has made in the last one year.”

Shubhangi pointed out the lack of support from players like Harmanpreet Kaur (30 in five) and Smriti Mandhana (49 in four). “The star players did not perform. It hurt the team. Imagine what would have happened had they scored? I must say the Indian fielding was far better than most other teams. Earlier, fitness and fielding were issues. Not this time.”

She analysed, “It was sad that Smriti and Harmanpreet never fired. Shafali (Verma) gave us great starts but most batters missed out on taking ones and twos. They kept getting out to shots in the air. Maybe, Smriti could have been cautious. Don’t forget Alyssa Healy got an early reprieve. All this with the benefit of hindsight though.”

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Looking ahead, Shubhangi, who played 19 Tests and 27 ODIs in a 15-year career starting 1976, wanted the team to have a good mental trainer. “This is one field I thought they need to concentrate on. Playing at a big stage like MCG, in front of such a big crowd, the girls could have gained from some guidance to manage their nerves. These things count.”

To capitalize on the good work by the team, Shubhangi backed the idea of an IPL for women. “Australians learnt to play in front of huge crowds because of the Big Bash. We can have a women’s IPL to encourage the girls… not many are comfortable at the thought of playing in front of a huge audience. An IPL would give them financial security and also attract more youngsters to look at a career in cricket.”

As Shubhangi, 60, emphasized, “You have to have a proper under-16 competition for girls and have to get them to play matches at an early age and not just spend time in the nets. The game is growing fast. Recently, we had a tournament in Pune where 20 teams participated. The demands for bats (harrow size) at my show (Sunny Sports) has been growing. This is the best time for women’s cricket with very good facilities and money. How I wish I was a 13-year-old!”

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