While they had comprehensively won all their matches in the lead up to the final, India’s last game was fraught with challenges. Mithali Raj was unavailable due to injury and their stand-in captain, Harmanpreet too was battling injury to her hand. Their lower-order hadn’t had much time out in the middle throughout the tournament and were required to bat in the grand finale.
Here Harmanpreet recounts how February 19, 2017 unfolded.
Can you walk us through the last over?
Nine runs were required off the last over. It was about me being able to keep the strike. I had faith that I would score those runs. The main problem was that we didn’t have wickets in hand. When we were eight wickets down, we took the risk of going for the second run and my partner Poonam Yadav was run out (first ball). When the last batter walked in I told her, ‘Raja (Rajeshwari Gayakwad) you just stay there, I am going to go for the boundaries. I don’t even want to go for two runs because if we aren’t able to make it, we will lose a wicket and the match will be over’.
Then there were three dot balls and there was pressure because then we needed two boundaries off the last two balls. And then I hit a six! After that, I told her that I am going to hit along the ground. I will look to play in the gap (for a boundary) but just in case I am not able to then be ready to run two. So, she took a start and was ready. She had removed her helmet and was all set to run, which gave me confidence.
How did you manage to hit the big six over deep mid-wicket and batting with an injury throughout?
Our physiotherapist (Tracy Fernandes) helped me a lot through the process. Before the camp, I had taken painkiller injections and the doctor recommended not do anything for 10-15 days. Physio’s everyday treatment and taping etc. helped as it did not hurt while batting. However, the right hand had become weak due to injections so that too required rehab and attention so we were doing strengthening and rehab every day. In the matches before the final, I wasn’t going for big shots because the hand was weak and hitting the ball hard was difficult. But then it was a do or die situation and I had to hit the ball no matter what. Thank God I could do it! Also, thanks to my teammates who were cheering and giving me confidence from outside the boundary.
When you have practiced playing certain shots, then even if you haven’t tried them for a while, they are still there in your (muscle) memory so I tried and connected and it went for a six. Yes, I was under pressure, but to win the game for your team in such circumstances lifts your confidence.
How did you shape the chase and what were you telling your lower-order partners?
After we lost the batters, I was nervous about what will happen because we have a very long tail. Amongst the bowlers except for Ekta (Bisht), there is no one you can depend on for 10-12 runs. Their bowlers were bowling a perfect yorker length so I told her to go only for shots, which she was confident about. I told her that I needed three-four runs from her from four-five balls and the rest I’d manage. She hit a boundary over the covers which gave her confidence as well, unfortunately, he got out trying to get away the wrong ball (a good delivery).
I told the same thing to Poonam Yadav, who came in next. I had confidence in her. She came in to bat without the helmet. I was also worried what if they bowl a bouncer at her but I didn’t create any doubts in her mind. I liked her confidence the way she came in and told me, ‘Didi you tell me what I need to do and I will do it’. I just told her to cover the wicket and bat without worrying too much. The 14-run partnership with her was very crucial.
Although you have been in a similar situation before, what was it like to lead an unbeaten side into the final and despite your injury taking them to victory?
Mithali di was warming up but she was experiencing pain. The coach then said that I would lead.It was sudden, and it was the final. Mithali di is a very important player for the team; a match-winner and to lose a big batter like her for the final and then leading the team in the final...there was a lot of pressure. We were playing without Mithali andJhulan (Goswami). But the team backed and boosted each other. We talked and stayed positive hence the result was also positive.