The official Women’s World Cup team of the Tournament offered up few surprises when it was announced yesterday.
Exclusively chosen from among the four nations to make up the semi-finalists, winners England led the way with four of their stars in its ranks.
Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor, Alex Hartley and the hero of Lord’s Anya Shrubsole all made the cut.
Beaten finalists India saw Muthali Raj named as skipper, with Hamranpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma joining her in the elite X1
Ellyse Perry was the only Aussie on the sheet, South African captain Dane van Niekerk and teammates Marizanne Kapp and Laura Woolvardt the others to get the governing body’s nod of approval.
World number one batter Meg Lanning was probably the biggest name left out in the cold.
Well, in response, here are my thoughts as a reporter and otherwise avid watcher of an engrossing competition. There won’t be many diversions from the ICC’s picks, but there will be a couple.
In making my choices I’ve given more weight to performances against other members of the big five – the semi-finalists plus New Zealand.
I’m also not one for giving in to the modern-day fad of picking an inexhaustible supply of all-rounders. After all it doesn’t seem to be serving England’s men that well in red-ball cricket at present. So, it will be a case of just enough to give my skipper the necessary bowling options.
With that preamble, here’s my elite class of the 2017 Women’s World Cup.
You simply cannot ignore the tournament’s leading run scorer, named Player of the Tournament in the aftermath of Sunday’s final.
The Kent opener survived a scratchy start to the tournament to enjoy a purple patch in the middle, her runs allowing England to build momentum and belief.
Of her 410 runs, 342 came in six games played against the four other powerhouse nations.
The ICC gave this spot to South African Starlet Laura Woolvardt, who at just 18 could justifiably be named Young Player of the Tournament. However, I’ve gone for Raut here.
Woolvardt is a huge talent and will light up the 2021 tournament as long as her medical studies don’t drag her away from the sport.
The one chink in the youngster’s armour was her tendency to go hard at the ball and miss the chance to rotate the strike.
This led to the dismissal of opening partner Lizelle Lee in the semi-final with England when she perished in her haste to make up for lost time.
Raut, by contrast, from match-day one against England showed the presence of mind to play the anchor role yet keep the score ticking. Her 86 in that shock win over the hosts at Derby was played in the shadow of Mandhana’s century.
By a strange quirk of fate, she made 86 in the final too, again the stage-hand to the more explosive Hamranpreet Kaur.
Muthali Raj (India) Captain
There was simply no arguing with the ICC’s choice of Raj as skipper.
The Indian captain was just one shy of Beaumont in the race to be leading run-scorer. Along with South Africa’s Dane van Niekerk – more of her later – she was the standout captain.
Tactically astute, her leadership dragged India back into contention after a mid-tournament slump where witnessed defeats to South Africa and Australia threatened to send them home early.
Had it not been for the whirlwind that was Anya Shrubsole, Raj would have been the World Cup winning skipper.
Her dignity in the wake of that disappointment served to underscore the fact she is simply world class.
Perry would surely have been leading run scorer had Australia made the final. Only teammate and world number one Lanning was above her in the averages.
Five 50s in eight innings, more than anyone else in the tournament, demonstrated an unrivalled level of consistency .
She gets in as a batter; the wickets courtesy of her medium pace are an added bonus.
Kaur came late to this World Cup, 282 of her 359 runs coming when India were playing knock-out cricket.
Her 60 against New Zealand was simply a prelude to 171 not out against Australia, one of the great knocks of Women’s World Cup history. Lest we forget, Australia were the tournament favourites and had thrashed their opponents just a week before.
Another half-century in the final confirmed Kaur is a woman for the big stage.
Strangely, I feel somewhat treacherous naming Sarah Taylor here.
I’m a traditionalist you see. I believe in wicket-keepers first, then wicket-keeper/ batters. The idea of batter/wicket-keepers is an anathema.
Why does that matter here? Well, on stats alone, stats the ICC applied to picking batters and bowlers alike, Taylor wouldn’t be wicket-keeper of the tournament.
India’s Sushma Verma stood head and shoulders above the rest in that department with 15 victims, including eight stumpings. She was of course not considered by the ICC because of her lack of runs.
Taylor too though showed her wicket-keeping prowess in the competition. Her ability to take the ball in front of the stumps helped effect several run-outs which otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
So, in the interests of keeping bowling options open, Taylor gets the gloves and the chance to play with more freedom towards the back end of the innings.
Dane van Niekerk
The vice-captain for me in this team, van Neikerk did an outstanding job leading the youngest average age team in the tournament to within a whisker of eliminating England in the semi-finals.
The leading wicket-taker with her leg-spin, she claimed victims at a good strike-rate and was economical to boot.
Ironically her one fault was under-bowling herself, especially in that dramatic semi-final.
The world’s number one bowler gets in, but only just after a mixed bag of a competition, largely dominated by spinners.
Kapp’s 4-14 ripped out the West Indies for 48, but at other times, particularly in big games she was underwhelming.
Still her tally of 13 was beaten only by van Niekerk and with so few seamers putting their hands up and another pace option needed, she nudges in ahead of the rest.
Shrubsole was the player of the final in a real cometh the hour, cometh the women tale. It is surely the art of a great player to save her greatest day for the greatest stage.
After a slow start to the tournament, latter performances suggested she was coming to herself. Yet no-one was quite ready for her spell of 5-11 from 19 balls when the trophy was all but lost.
However, the Somerset seamer made the team of the tournament in 2013 too, so maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised.
England’s premier spinner was a constant threat with ability to take wickets or dry up runs as the occasion demanded.
India appeared to target her in the final, but Hartley had the last laugh grabbing vital wickets once more.
She’s probably not used to being promoted to bat 10, but with those above her she wouldn’t be needed to wield the willow too often.
The ICC preferred to name Deepti Sharma as yet another all-rounder, but for me that is an unnecessary indulgence.
Yadav is in the ferret class as a batter – she goes in after the rabbits.
However, she’s a big spinner of the ball, something which befuddled opposition batters.
It gave Yadav one of the best economy rates in the competition, making her a perfect foil for van Niekerk and Hartley in the slow-bowling department.