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A round-up: Highlights from Women’s cricket in 2020

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2020 may not have been a smooth sail for any sport thanks to the pandemic. But the Women’s cricket flourished and recorded some fantastic individual feats as well as team achievements that gave fans (for whom cricket isn’t a bifurcation between genders) a season to remember the game, and lest it is forgotten, some of its truly memorable highlights.

So what were the key highlights of 2020 where Women’s cricket was concerned?

Sana Mir- A Legend Bowed Out From Women’s Cricket

Almost 15 years in International cricket, 240 wickets, 120 ODIs, 3.7 bowling economy

Of the true greats of the sport as a whole and not just the women’s game, Sana Mir bowed out in 2020.

There are setbacks and then there are heartbreaks. Perhaps the purist would do well to know where to place the subject of Sana Mir’s retirement.

At 34, was she not in fine form and fit enough to carry on? No prizes for guessing.

But Mir, one of the old guards of the women’s sport in Pakistan retired not before playing a brand of absolutely inspiring cricket, always with respect and upholding the dignity of the game for no fewer than a decade and a half.

During this time, the Pakistan ace, one of the few greats of the game to have never played a Test match, collected 240 international wickets.

For someone who was also the captain of the national side and for the better part of her career, Sana Mir, despite all her fame, remains ever humble.

If that’s not the true definition of a great of the sport, then one wonders, what is?

Interestingly, while Mir in her playing days shall always be remembered for being one of the hardest off-break bowlers to dislodge, that she was more than some occasionally handy batter makes her truly special.

Of her 2,400 plus international runs, of which 1,600 came in ODIs alone, this apostle of dedication struck three half-centuries for Pakistan and could do more than just hold an inning especially when the team was confronted by duress.

To say Sana Mir would be missed on the popping crease would be a statement akin to saying something like not drinking water could pose severe threat to one’s life.

‘The Meg (a) star Lanning led Australia to a fifth World T20 title

2859 T20 runs, 2 centuries, 13 fifties, A Strike Rate of almost 116!

Since 1934, when they were first instituted in the sport, the Australian Women’s national cricket team has had a major impact on the sport. Truth be told, there are teams and there are bastions of excellence. Australia, without a doubt, are the latter given their sheer talent and the inherent alacrity toward facing a challenge on the cricket field.

That said, in Meg Lanning, the team has not just an able leader around whom the unit sticks like fish to a freshwater lake but a dazzling batter who can turn the face of a contest on her own.

And that’s pretty much what transpired as the 28-year-old Singapore-born Aussie led her team to a prized glory: the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup crown.

Meg Lanning, one must do well to remember, is a champion of the sport and someone who perhaps epitomizes through excellence. This is precisely what came to light as the right-hander led by an example in shepherding the best side in the women’s game to yet another crown in the shortest format.

Throughout the tournament, Meg Lanning, as opposed to some batters who are all power and less timing, was quiet and purposeful, having her sights on the important if not mega contributions her side so keenly sought.

For instance, in the league stage contest vs the White Ferns, Lanning chipped in with a 21 off 17, though this useful knock came after a disappointing opening contest against India wherein Lanning made just five.

But it were knocks like the unbeaten and calm 41 off 44 deliveries (vs Sri Lanka) and that run-a-ball 49 versus the Proteas women in the semi final where Meg Lanning truly rose to a different level.

The Big Major step toward Women’s IPL

Why can’t there be a women’s IPL if there can be a men’s IPL? If you are someone who relished asking this very straightforward and just question then probably 2020 wasn’t all that pathetic a year for you. 

One of the best highlights of a pandemic-marred year was 2020 Women’s T20 Challenge that while had no more than just 4 games left a significant impact in upping the ante of what could be a full-fledged Women’s IPL someday.

A Smriti Mandhana (captain, Trailblazers) and Salma Khatun (former captain, Bangladesh women’s national cricket team) special enabled the Trailblazers to a performance that only suits the team name.

On her part, Radha Yadav, who formed big headlines for her stupendous showing in the Women’s T20 World Cup (including spells like 1 for 25 from 4 that helped India to a semi’s spot, before which she’d take 4 for 23 v Sri Lanka in a league game), took the player of the series.

But major headlines in the key final (Trailblazers versus Supernovas) belonged to Smriti Mandhana for her attacking 68 off 49 (s/r of 138) and Khatun in lieu of an incredible spell of off-break that led to 3 for 18 (from a full spell of 4), something the Supernovas could never quite handle despite chasing a modest 119.

In the times to come, it are sincere efforts of the BCCI through initiatives like the Women’s T20 Challenge that can lead to what every fan would love to see: a proper Women’s IPL of its own.

But is that day going to arrive anytime soon?

ALSO READ: An India win for the ages

Windies Women endured a very poor year, but Dottin and Taylor shone bright

In any many ways it’s great news for Windies women that 2020 is drawing finally to a close. Not too hard to understand why.

This, after all, was a year where the West Indies women failed to lift a single series win, gathering low-key positives, provided beating Thailand Women in the T20 Women’s World Cup can be called that.

The team capitulated to a rather embarrassing show in the pinnacle of T20 cricket- 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup- the stage the Stafanie Taylor-led team hasn’t been a stranger to, having lifted the title (against all odds) in 2016.

Whether it was batting or bowling and not mention, fielding, which, let’s be frank has never really been an outstanding skill-set of the side from Caribbean, West Indies women lacked the basics and character.

So how can one even say such a rude remark to the former World Champions?

Picture the game against England in the World Cup (held in Australia).

Had the side not been aided by 12 extras, Windies would not have managed to post even that embarrassing 97 on the board. Of these, Dottin was able to make just 9, while Taylor made 15.

Not so many days apart from their hammering at the hands of England, the West Indies took almost 17 overs to chase down 80 (16.4). This was particularly disappointing since staring at an experienced world cup-winning side were Thailand.

Gladly, captain Taylor- who’d six months later notch up 3,000 T20I runs- arrived in the fifth over, and stayed until the end to see her side over the line. Her unbeaten 26 off 37, and a 3-over spell that returned 3 for 13 helped what may have surely been a pathetic show by the team.

Sadly, in the same game, the mighty Deandra Dottin was able to score just 2 off 3.

It’s not that the string of embarrassing games ended with the backbreaking defeat suffered at the hands of England. Against Pakistan Women, who beat Taylor’s unit fair and square in notching up a big 8-wicket victory, the West Indies batted decently to put up a competitive 124.

But was never going to be enough as clueless bowling and the failure to execute plans versus a Javeria Khan and Bismah Maroof-driven show turned the game completely in Pak’s favor.

Yet, Taylor’s 43 off off 47 and 1 for 20 (3.2) overs stood out as the lone bright star in yet another disappointing show by Dottin (just 1 off 10).

It wasn’t until the limited-overs series against England women that the brute hammerer of the white-ball Deandra Dottin finally picked up some form.

And boy, did that change the context of the series?

Well, let’s just put it this way: even as the West Indies women suffered absolute humiliation- losing every single game to England in the five rather one-sided T20Is, Dottin picked up form finally.

In clubbing 69 off just 59 (1st T20), 38 off 40 (2nd T20), 63 off 56, Dottin lit up a series where her team offered a spineless surrender and where other promising names like Hayley Matthews and Lee-Ann Kirby and Shemaine Campbelle struggled to put  bat to ball.

Anuradha Doddaballapur: Remember the name!

One of the finest moments in the entirety of women’s cricket this year was the absolute hammering Germany delivered to their Western European rivals (rather neighbors) Austria.

In Germany for a T20 series, Austria competed and lost in all four matches they played, thus giving the Anuradha Doddaballapur-led side deserving and some bright smiles.

To win back-to –back T20Is is always difficult but to whitewash a team- calls for a massive celebration, right?

Then imagine how fascinating would it have been to see the captain of the side lead by an example?

To date, no other cricketer in the T20 format has bagged four wickets in as many deliveries.

This is when India-born German national cricket captain Anuradha Doddaballapur- an inspiring, erudite, calm-headed, all round cricketer and leader- stormed to headlines with a fine display of four wickets in as many deliveries and that too, in the fourth and final contest.

Imagine the bowling figures of 5 wickets, whilst conceding a solitary run?

Importantly, star batter for Germany, Christina Gough scored the most runs in the series (as an opener) including a ton and it was this eagerly-watched series that brought the women’s game back from the dead, there being no live cricket action for nearly over half a decade.

Bravo, Deutschland, das war sehr gut!

But how will and soon can Austria bounce back?

India Women all but win the World T20

The 2020 Women’s T20 world cup shall always be remembered as a polarizing subject for Indian cricket fans. On the one hand, the team did all it could to reach the finals but on the other hand, put up a hapless show on the very date that held the key.

The team, led by exceptional spin and medium bowling thanks to talents like Radha Yadav, Shikha Pandey, and Poonam Yadav, marched to the last but the ultimate step: the final! But key factors like the collective effort of the batting unit and weaknesses like a lack of forward thinking hurt the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side badly.

In fact, throughout the series where one didn’t have Smriti but a 15-year-old- Shafali who batted fearlessly, the onus remained on Harmanpreet to deliver from the bat and that’s precisely what didn’t transpire.

But make no mistake.

Beating teams like England and even Australia in the vital 3-team series (formed as a pre-cursor to the WC) was in so ways a small feat.

A year where the Proteas Women made history

2020 turned out to be that edition of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, where the Proteas women reached the semi finals for the first time ever.

The only wish, not just from a fan perspective but also from the view of the purist who’s driven by the sentiment of “Protea fire” is what might have happened had South Africa not been met with very poor luck given their run-in with the rain that led to the washed out duel with India?

Could then we not have seen this embodiment of pure, unadulterated passion in the finals of the Women’s World T20?

Were India, with all due respect to such a fine side, always the obvious participant in the very contest which, well turn out to be anything but an evenly balanced game?

Dane Van Niekerk, who returned after nearly nine months of missing out on cricket, led a side that played a brand of inspiring cricket.

The wins against Thailand and England were fascinating highs for a team that belongs to a country where 2020 was anything but a spectacular year in the sport.

The administrative and structural woes in CSA this year only exacerbated problems for the sport already plagued with financial woes.

But it were feats like Lizelle Lee’s smoldering century against Thailand, and Mignon du Preez’ spirited effort: that thrilling, match-winning six against the great Katherine Brunt (Feb 23, 4th game of group stage)- that sealed hearts toward the Proteas women.

Also, none can get enough of Laura Wolvaardt’s heartening 41* of just 27 in that rain-affected contest against Australia (semi-final) that ended the Proteas’ campaign but showed the world a glimpse of the infinite potential of this rising star?