Today’s Scenario: Mithali Raj Lifts the 2017 Cricket World Cup
In our segment Just Imagine, we explore how a specific moment in cricket could have lasting ripple effects. Going back in time, we ask a simple question: What Would Happened if…? and reflect on its consequences.
Since the Women T20 Challenge is in full flow among the teams—Trailblazers, Velocity, and the Supernovas, we imagine what would have happened if India had not collapsed against England in the 2017 Cricket World Cup Final?
England vs India, July 23rd 2017, Final, Lord’s, London, ICC Women’s World Cup
The 2017 Cricket World Cup was a watershed moment in several ways for women’s cricket. It was widely broadcasted and viewed, the matches were highly competitive, several remarkable individual performances were on show, and to cap it off—an intense final.
The hosts were favorite to win the trophy, while India captured the imagination of the world during the tournament.
In the group stages, India had won 5/7 games while brushing Australia aside in the semi-finals thanks to Harmanpreet Kaur’s magnificent 171*—maybe the best world cup innings by an Indian in a semi-final, certainly in the last decade. On the other hand, England squeaked past the Proteas with 2 balls to spare. Their only defeat in the tournament coming at the hand of India via Smriti Mandana’s elegant 90.
The final was a classic low-scoring thriller. Ebbs and flows throughout.
England scored 228/7. In response, Mandana and Raj fell cheaply before Punam Raut and Kaur stabilized and registered 50s.
India now in control….Or at least, we thought.Embed from Getty Images
Chasing 229, India are sitting comfortably at 191-3.
38 needed off 44 balls. Punam Raut 86* (114), Veda Krishnamurthy 28* (28). Then, next ball, there is an appeal for LBW…
What Actually Happened:
42. 5 Shrubsole to Raut OUT:
Punam has asked for a review but the umpire says sorry, you took too long. Do England have wink of an opportunity? This was the wrong shot. Length ball sliding in from wide of the crease, Punam plays all around the delivery. Looked to work it square when he could’ve played in down the ground. Hit on the knee roll. That would’ve gone on to hit the stumps. Has she done enough though?
What followed was an absolute collapse. Anya Shrubsole’s 6 wicket haul grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat.
India fell agonizingly 9 runs short with 8 balls still remaining.
Highlights: England trumps India in tense World Cup Final
If Punam Raut had straight batted the shot, or if the DRS review was called in time, and the decision (magically) overturned, what would have happened?
Punam Raut hits an unbeaten century in the final. Veda seals the deal with an exquisite six.
Jhulam Goswami, the star with 3 wickets on the final, and captain Mithali Raj retire as World Cup winners. The 2017 squad return as legends. Their stories now etched in stone along with the 1983 and 2011.
The BCCI want to capitalize as usual.
They have a template—2007 T20 World Cup and the 2008 IPL. Upon the Indian men’s victory, the experiment of IPL turned into an unprecedented success, changing the global cricket game forever.
They have an opportunity again.
The Women’s IPL launches in 2018. All the world cup heroes are in their prime. Raj captains the Chennai Super Kings, Harmanpreet the marquee player for Kings XI Punjab, and Mandhana starring for the Mumbai Indians. With foreign players such as Heather Knight, Nat Sciver, and the world’s greatest Ellyse Perry, the WIPL is a financial and global success.
This T20 experience gained helps Indian women win the 2020 T20 World Cup defeating Australia in their background in front of a 86,174 crowd at the MCG.
Reflection – Inaction Trumps Imagination
Well, things did not turn out that way, did it?
Winning and losing is part and parcel of the game. Yes, one moment can change histories, but sometimes if action is taken in the right time, it could pay dividends as well.
India’s performance had already delighted audiences around the world and Goswami-Mithali-Harmanpreet-Mandana were household names.
Why then, has the WIPL not been put into action?
It did not need to be an 8 team tournament. A 5-6 team tournament would be wonderful as well. In 3 years, teams would have stabilized, rivalries and fanbase would have fostered, and ultimately, women’s cricket would have benefitted.
Instead, we are watching the 3rd T20 Women’s challenge as an afterthought of a 56 match exhausting Men’s IPL, just taking a break before the Playoffs. Meanwhile, most of the foreign players like Heather Knight, Alyssa Healy, and Ellyse Perry are employing their trade at the WBBL, and we are just waiting for the Hundred for a competitive world T20 women’s league.
With the likes of Shefali Verma, Deepti Sharma, and Jemimah Rodrigues, India’s future is still bright, but by the time WIPL commences, India women’s stars would have already retired.
Inspired By Conversations with Vandit and ESPNCricinfo’s Alternative Universe Series.