Sachin Tendulkar and Shafali Varma
Sachin Tendulkar and Shafali Varma

History has a way of repeating itself and we felt it on 8th March 2020 as the Indian women’s team played against Australia. Those of us old enough to remember were instantly transported back to the Men’s World Cup Final in 2003, when a resurgent Team India was surgically dismantled by the 1999 World Cup winners.

It was the most dominant Aussie side of all time, perhaps the most dominant side to ever play Limited Overs Cricket.

Youngsters who have no memories of the nineties or the early noughties might have forgotten the dark days of match-fixing or the hammering losses, but the dawn of a new era started when Ganguly took over in 2000. He brought something to Indian cricket that had been conspicuous by its absence till then – a spine.

In 2001, Sourav Ganguly’s Team India led an astounding comeback against Steve Waugh’s Australia at the Eden Gardens, as they became only the third team to win after following on. In fact, no team following on has won in Test cricket since that epic Laxman-Dravid masterclass.

India then won the NatWest Series against England in 2002 with Ganguly exhibiting the virtues of not manscaping at Lord’s. Against this backdrop, a resurgent Team India slayed their way to the final where they came up against the Aussies. But the Australians were a cut above the rest, as they demonstrated in the coming minutes: At the very moment when Australia chose to bat first, many old-timers were reminded of that moment and the final result only reminded us that loss. There were differences though. This same Indian outfit had bamboozled the Aussies in the group stages. Many of their batters, including Alyssa Healy had fallen to Poonam Yadav’s wrong ‘uns and were unable to handle her flight.

However, Australia in finals are a different proposition. Here are some similarities between the 2003 World Cup Final and the 2020 Women’s World T20 Final:

1) Defending champion Australia batting first and putting up a huge total

One of India’s biggest ‘what if’ moment remains whether Sourav Ganguly should’ve opted to bat first. In 2003, Dada – the current BCCI president – had won the toss and bizarrely decided to chase. The Indian batsmen including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and the captain himself were in good form and but perhaps chasing wasn’t the best option in a high-pressure final.

While Australia raced to a huge 359 target in an era when 300+ scores were a rarity, the same thing happened this time around with Alyssa Healy leading the onslaught and helping them score 184 in 20 overs.

2) Alyssa Healy’s Ricky Ponting touch

Things could’ve been very different if Shafali Verma hadn’t grassed Alyssa Healy in the first over, but there was no turning back after that moment. Healy’s innings was eerily reminiscent of Ricky Ponting’s 140* in the 2003 final.

Just like Ponting, Healy took the Indian bowlers to the cleaners, scoring 75 off 37, which included three consecutive sixes. By the time she was eventually out, Australia were too far ahead.

3) Shafali Varma’s Sachinsque fall

In 2003, the Little Master was in fine nick with 673 runs in the tournament. 17 years later, Shafali Varma who packs the same punch in a small frame and has a slight facial resemblance to his son Arjun Tendulkar was the one who kept the scoreboard busy.

A little over five feet, the 16-year-old’s batting prowess bordered on the criminal in this tournament as she dispatched bowlers with the ease of a veteran. And yet there was a Karnasque fall for Varma, much like Tendulkar in the 2003.

Smarting after dropping Healy in the first over, Varma was out for just 2 runs after edging it. Older fans immediately remembered Sachin Tendulkar skying a Glenn McGrath delivery.

Light at the end of the tunnel

However, no matter how dark the night feels right now, we ought to remember that in 8 years, a different Team India, led by MS Dhoni would successfully chase down the total and win the title on home soil.

We might not have to wait for a different team to do India proud again. Lest we forget, Shafali Varma is only 16-year-old and the core of this team is below 23. There’s no doubt that we won’t have to wait too long before we see these talented youngsters end the long drought for an ICC silverware.

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