ICC Women’s World Cup 2013: Can Lankan eves match 1996 men team’s feat?

Let’s admit it. We all never expected the ICC Women’s World Cup 2013 to be as successful as it has been so far. The tournament kicked off on a positive note for the Indian fans as Thirush Kamini played a gutsy innings and became the first Indian women cricketer to score a ton in a World Cup. India comprehensively defeated West Indies by 105 runs.

The very next day, the tournament witnessed some more crackling performances as Sri Lanka upset England by one wicket in a last-ball thriller. Eshani Kaushalya single-handedly stole the show as she first picked two crucial wickets and then slammed a 41-ball 56 to stun the defending champions.

It was a shocker for England, and one of the biggest moments Sri Lankan women’s cricket has ever witnessed. Everybody hailed Kaushalya and some even joked that she looks like Ranatunga and bats like Aravinda de Silva. England bowlers were hurt by the defeat and Mithali Raj further rubbed salt into their wounds by criticizing them. They came all guns blazing against India, and a valiant effort from Harmanpreet Kaur (107*) did not prove sufficient for the hosts.

India then locked horns in a must-win game against the Lankans who were routed by West Indies in their second outing, and their victory against England was being talked about as a fluke. But the Lankans settled all the speculations as they routed India by 138 runs. Mithali Raj wasted no time in blaming the bowlers for their defeat.

“All the bowlers were off-colour today. I guess we can expect one or two to be off-colour, but not all of them,” she said.

Granted the bowlers weren’t at their best, but the India skipper didn’t do anything wise either to prevent Lanka’s onslaught in the death overs. With Kaushalya at the crease, Mithali brought spinner Gouher Sultana to bowl the final over without a long-off. She asked for trouble and the Sri Lankan heavy-weight didn’t disappoint as she smashed Sultana for 16 runs off the last five balls including two boundaries towards the vacant long-off region.

Kaushalya once again came up with a scintillating performance as she followed her unbeaten 31-ball 56 with two wickets and a run-out. She was sweating and panting after bowling a few overs, but her effort which was nothing less than 100 percent, was visible. Kaushalya has been an entertainment package for this World Cup. When asked about her talent, Sanjay Manjrekar said that he has asked his family to watch this woman play as she adds so much to the game.

The tournament so far has been like a dream for the Sri Lankans. Prior to this, they had won just four matches in its previous four World Cups, none against a top class team. They have worked very hard to reach the Super Six stage. Women’s cricket has mostly been dominated by England and Australia. Thus it is good to see one of the minnows putting up such a fight.

Sri Lankan men’s team hadn’t done anything substantial till the 1996 World Cup either but the Ranatunga-led side took world cricket by surprise as Jayasuriya-Kaluwitharana reinvented the approach in the initial 15 overs. In the finale, they stunned Australia to lift the coveted trophy. The Lankan eves are well on course for something similar.

After defeating India, Sri Lanka’s captain, Shashikala Siriwardene said, “I am seriously super happy. This could be my last World Cup, and I wanted to do something special for my team.” Even if the Lankans don’t reach the semis or the finale, their skipper, like the thousands of cricket fans, would be an extremely proud woman.