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India women’s cricket in 2021 was like a massive sports wagon, but one that won races away from the home circuit and was found going great guns in unfamiliar or should one say, not the friendliest of race tracks!
In what was a demonstration of close-knitted, finely-balanced and perfectly-orchestrated show of cricket, in both forms, red and white, the India women’s cricket in 2013 was the story of some interesting and big moments, much of which came away from the home comfort of playing in sub-continental conditions.
There were contests in Australia, England and others where the team considered to be among the most enterprising in the women’s arena truly came into its own. The presence of experienced campaigners buoyed even more by that of promising newcomers spelt fine magic for Team India!
But which moments in particular, shaped the culture, spirit and identity of India women’s cricket team in 2021?
Smriti Mandhana in top gear!
Smriti Mandhana played her own part in India Women’s Cricket in 2021 and an important one at that by her usual high standards. She’s, after all, the batting force to whom the present moment belongs. Cricket in India, to a good extent, is wired in how the bat of Mandhana performs, regardless of format. And having already proven her worth in white-ball cricket, India women’s cricket in 2021 got to see the familiar Mandhana magic shine in Tests as well.
It was a year where the team known for the firepower of Harmanpreet Kaur and the composure of Mithali Raj featured in two impressive Test matches.
While the first, in England, ended in a draw, the other, a Pink-ball Test, kept Australia on the tenterhooks even as the game ended in yet another draw Down Under. But guess what- the fiery left-hander played her own important part in both, first being a part of a fancy top order stand featuring Shafali Verma in England, and in the other, rising to strike the first ever century in a pink ball Test from India’s stable.
Her famous 127 at the Metricon stadia united the Australian as well as the Indian onlookers in sheer awe and the composure and technique shown by the Maharashtra batter against an attack featuring Perry, Brown, Campbell and McGrath was indeed commendable.
That her team made 377 in its first inning at the back of a high-octane run-produce blade of Smriti Mandhana was special and something to laud Indian cricket about.
A year of Jemimah Rodrigues
2021 did turn out to be a massive year for the famous top order batter Jemimah Rodrigues, who took to the maiden season of the famous The Hundred akin to a rockstar to the stage amid a live concert.
Hers was the show as also the scores and in the end, 241 vital runs were scored by the tiny wonder of Team India.
While scoring runs in white-ball cricket is one thing, to make those at a high rate and in overseas conditions is something quite different.
That there were massive talents and thus, healthy competition all around in the form of West Indians, Australians, South Africans did show that it was never going to be any easy for Jemimah but the boundary piercer and big-hitter kept up with her regal show in the maiden season of The Hundred.
Such a delight and therefore, such a big positive for India women’s cricket in 2021!
The big arrival of Sneh Rana
One of the most impressive talents to have broken through the ranks in Indian women’s cricket in 2021, Sneh Rana, who belongs to Dehradun has today, become a household name in the country.
In some ways, it could be said that the way last year Radha Yadav came to the party in the spin bowling department, 2021 saw the rise of the off break specialist Sneh Rana.
At England, she was impressive with both the bat and ball. And while her four-for in the first innings dampened the hosts’ hopes, the big wickets of Beaumont, Jones, and later, Elwiss making things difficult for the side batting first, her well-composed 80 in the fourth inning ensured India’s challengers never had the edge.
That after Deepti Sharma, who lasted for 168 deliveries in the fourth innings, Sneh Rana soldiered on for over 150 deliveries, augured well for the tourists. Can the side now motivate Rana to become a force to reckon with?
Disappointments in White-ball cricket at home
One of the biggest disappointments of India Women’s cricket team in 2021 was the massive letdown it experienced when the famous Proteas women came calling during the summers.
At Lucknow, playing therefore, on their home turf, there was little that India could do as the likes of Sune Luus, Lizelle Lee, Laura Wolvaardt and Mignon du Preez came together to put up one heck of a challenge.
In the end, the Proteas succeeded in achieving something they never had expected or done in the past: a white-ball series win in both the ODIs as well as the T20Is.
The only Indian campaigner, however, who was able to put some doubts into the minds of batters was the deceptive Rajeshwari Gayakwad, who actually did end up as the leading wicket taker of 2021 in ODIs, with 8 dismissals against her name.
But what was also disappointing was that even familiar vanguards of Indian batting in Mithali Raj, the highest ODI run accumulator in the format, wasn’t able to come to her side’s rescue.
On the other hand, the pairing of Mignon du Preez and new-and-rising Anne Bosch worked wonders from the bat for their side, holding the fort and exhibiting a tough fight in what were adverse situations to bat.
Indian women in The WBBL
Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, and where seen in 2021, then Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh have become some of the powerful and prominent names that have emerged on the scene of the famous WBBL, which clearly happens to be the most popular T20 white-ball league based series in the women’s cricket.
And in the 2021 edition of the famed women’s T20 league in Australia, Smriti Mandhana, already in red-hot form with the bat, left little to the imagination by striking a famous century, a dogged 114 off just 64 deliveries.
It was a truly sensational knock by the dominant batter, who happens to be among the game’s best, alongside names like Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healy, Sophie Devine, Deandra Dottin, Marizanne Kapp and the likes.
But in the end, the knock that turned out to be the first century from the bat of an Indian in the WBBL, wasn’t enough to salvage a win. Nevertheless, what a knock that was and now, one can expect even bigger things from the famous left-hander who bats with elan.