India women cricket team under Harmanpreet Kaur should handle pressure better: Hemlata Kala

Kala, who represented in 78 ODIs and seven Tests, was appointed as a selector in 2015 before she became the panel chief in 2016.

“Players have to be ready to play the big games but they were not despite having a good mix of youth and experience. The batting failure also cost us. May be, they were under pressure,” Kala told PTI. Kala’s term as head of selection committee has been a golden phase in women’s cricket.

India reached the 2017 World Cup final, a landmark moment for women’s cricket in the country and undoubtedly “the biggest high” of her tenure. The low point was loss to Bangladesh in 2018 Asia Cup final. What went wrong in 2017 ODI World Cup final and 2018 World T20 semifinals?

“In 2017, it was a massive batting collapse too. We were 191 for three, chasing 229 but we were not able to. There was no reason to panic but we did. We beat Australia in the semifinals with Harmanpreet playing a blinder and we also beat in the league of World T20 next year,” said Kala.

While pressure remains a factor, Kala believes in this current lot which she feels can beat England and Australia, consistently across two formats. “And the issue of handling pressure remains till date though the team is fully capable of going all the way and has shown that by beating top teams (Australia and England) regularly. We tend to falter in the final, pressure has a played a role in that,” said the 44-year-old.

Another loss in a major final earlier this year raised questions against Harmanpreet’s leadership with former India captain Shantha Rangaswamy saying she was more valuable as a player than skipper. Kala, however, believes there is no better leader in the T20 team than Harmanpreet.

“I don’t think there is any better leader than Harman in the current squad. Performance is different, it can go up and down, but it is equally important to have a leader in the group. She thinks like one and should continue in T20s and take over from Mithali once she retires from ODIs. That was the thinking of our panel.”

However, Kala doesn’t agree with Harmanpreet’s view that India are 5-6 years behind the mighty Australia. “I won’t agree with that but if it is about handling pressure in big games, Australia are used to handling pressure, we are not. We beat them in 2017 (semis), 2018 (league stage) and now also we beat them in the league stage in the last edition. Like I said, we need to figure out how to handle pressure in finals. I am hopeful the team breaks the jinx in the 2021 ODI World Cup,” she said.

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