"I had tears in my eyes"
Said Smriti Mandhana, who was visibly very emotional and proud as she kept staring at the gold medal that she and her fellow players from the Women in Blue had just won at the 2023 Asian Games.
Winning a gold medal for your country is the dream of every sportsperson; more so cricketers because they barely get to compete at events where medals are up for grabs.
With cricket returning to the Asian Games this year, it provided a rare golden opportunity for the Women in Blue to bring Gold to their country.
And, while it didn't prove to be a smooth ride on a very tough wicket and against a feisty Sri Lankan team, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led India eventually came out as comfortable victors by 19 runs, and the scenes that unfolded said it all.
Titas Sadhu delivers on the big stage, AGAIN
Make no mistake, this Indian Women's cricket team has endured plenty of heartbreaks in knockout games of ICC events and CWG games in the past 5 years. So, when they were restricted to just 116/7 in 20 overs, the flashbacks of those heartbreaks may certainly have played at the back of their mind at the halfway stage.
But, it helped that they had someone like Titas Sadhu, who doesn't have that sort of baggage. Sadhu had played a stellar role in the U19 World Cup final earlier this year, so she certainly had happy memories to bank on.
And, she made sure that she added another chapter to those happy memories as she gave India a perfect start by dismissing the Lankan top-3, including superstar batter Chamari Athapaththu in her opening spell to shift the game decisively in India's favor.
Sadhu finished with figures of 3/6 in 4 overs and certainly proved to be the biggest positive for Team India in this campaign.
Can Asian Games Gold medal help the Women in Blue break the ice in ICC Knockouts?
Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues have played plenty of 'clutch' knocks in the past, but more often than not, they have ended on the losing end of the spectrum.
But, this time, that was not the case as their batting effort was supported beautifully by the bowlers.
On what was a very tough batting track, Mandhana and Jemimah played with utmost maturity, ensuring that India got enough on the board to allow their bowlers to apply a stranglehold on the Lankan batters.
Smriti scored 46 off 45 deliveries with the help of 4 fours and 1 six, while Rodrigues racked up 5 boundaries in her 40-ball 42.
Smriti was pretty emotional at the post-match interview, and it almost felt like she was talking on behalf of every team member, who has been scarred by constant setbacks in knockouts in the last few years.
Flashbacks of the CWG 2022 final heartbreak to Australia must have surely played in their head as they went to the podium to collect their medals. And, one could just feel how much it meant to them, especially Smriti.
Smriti Mandhana after winning the Gold Medal
"This is very special. We have seen this on TV. When Neeraj Chopra won the Gold, I had a match... how the National Anthem was played and India's National Flag went up, I think it was pretty special and I had tears in my eyes… happy that we could contribute to the medal tally of the Indian contingent... gold is gold... really happy that we gave our best today," as quoted by ANI.
Stern challenges surely await this Indian team, and yes, there are a lot of areas that they need to iron out if they want to cross the final hurdle against the likes of Australia and England, but, for now, they can be mighty proud of what they have achieved, and also use this experience to correct the wrongs from the past.
Because, you see, winning is a habit, especially in tournament finals, and no matter who the opposition is, a successful triumph under your belt does give you the confidence to nail hurdles in a similar situation in the future.
But, habits are also not formed in a day. It's a constant process that involves step-by-step evolution with constant feedback. Can this win conjure Team India to finally take the next leap? Only time will tell. But, for now, we can celebrate our newest Gold medalists in town.
Featured Image Credit: BCCI