Team India’s scintillating fightback in Bristol against England was no flash in the pan. After a dismal show at home against South Africa recently, one would have never expected the Indians to put up the kind of fight they did — after being down and out for almost three-and-a-half days.
For those of you wondering, when did India play England in Bristol - we are talking about the women’s team, whom we are going to hear about a lot more in the coming times. Even though Mithali Raj’s team just secured a draw, but it is nothing less than astounding for a team that played red-ball cricket after almost seven years or 2401 days, to be precise.
Why is this time period important in the context of the result against Heather Knights’ team? Perhaps because in this time, players from the country came to the team, played for a while, and retired too. Not just this, the Indian team hadn’t played red-ball cricket in a while and were thrown the challenge of playing in England. Ask the former players or the current lot, they’d tell you that England is one of the most difficult countries to play in — if not the toughest.
One would argue that players like Mithali, Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana had prior experience of playing Tests in England, but what about the other players in the team? Well, five of them marked their debuts in Bristol. England just had one — Sophia Dunkley.
What was heartening to see were these debutants standing tall against a side that had a combined experience of 51 Tests, that too when seasoned stars like Mithali and Harmanpreet had failed miserably. It all started with 17-year-old Shafali Verma, who proved her critics wrong by slamming 96 and 63, and blunted the opposition’s fast bowling attack.
Deepti Sharma wasn’t far behind, picked up three wickets, batted well with the tail to score 29 in the first innings, followed by a gritty 54 in the second. And then the most impressive of all — Sneh Rana, who apart from picking four wickets, played perhaps the most crucial innings of her life (80 in the second innings), and saved India from a probable defeat.
Not many would know that she was thrown into the match with no international experience in five years. Then the 27-year-old all-rounder overcame personal tragedy too — lost her father a couple of months back — and delivered when it mattered the most.
This team has shown what it takes to be at the top in the longest format, provided they are given enough matches to play in the future. The team bats deep, till no.11, and is replete with players who can bat and bowl equally well. This is something even the men’s team hasn’t been able to replicate over the years. Even in women’s cricket, not many teams have such luxury — not Australia, not New Zealand.
Come September, a new challenge will be thrown at this team — of playing a pink-ball Test in Australia. While the playing conditions would only get tougher Down Under, under the lights, expect this team to put up an even better fight.