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  Sports   Cricket  25 Jul 2017  Punam Raut, Smriti Mandhana put up impressive show at WWC

Punam Raut, Smriti Mandhana put up impressive show at WWC

Published : Jul 25, 2017, 12:17 am IST
Updated : Jul 25, 2017, 12:17 am IST

Twenty-seven-year old Punam Raut and Smriti Mandhana took the team ahead through the World Cup finals.

Punam Raut (Photo: AP)
 Punam Raut (Photo: AP)

India had a dream run in the just-concluded ICC Women’s World Cup in England. And it was kickstarted by the Maharashtra-based openers Punam Raut and Smriti Mandhana.

The Mithali Raj-led side fell agonisingly just nine runs short of first ever World Cup title after having things under control for the better part of the final at Lord’s on Sunday. Nevertheless, their campaign, which ended with six wins, including some convincing wins over the top three sides, has generated new hope for women’s cricket in India.  Punam and Smriti set things up with a 144-run opening stand in Derby against eventual champions England in the opener. Though Smriti struggled after a great start to her campaign, Punam continued to sizzle and gave good starts to the Indian team throughout the tournament.

Former India women’s skipper Diana Edulji hailed Punam for her consistent show. Mumbai-based Punam, who opened the innings with Sangli’s Smriti in all the nine matches, made 381 runs in nine innings at an average of 42.33. She was the second top scorer of the tournament for India after skipper Mithali Raj (409).

Punam’s significant innings in the tournament included 86 each against England in the league opener and the final on Sunday. She made her maiden World Cup hundred (106) against Australia in the league game.

The 27-year-old Punam was not selected for the World Cup qualifiers held in Sri Lanka. However, she was included in the India team for the quadrangular series in South Africa due to impressive domestic performances. In South Africa, Deepti Sharma (188) and Punam (109) shared a 320-run stand for the Indian women’s cricket team in their ODI encounter against Ireland to create history.

“She has been in and around the side, but she has proved her worth since her comeback this time. She has proved the selectors right with good performances,” Diana, who is a member of the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators to oversee BCCI operations, said.

Punam, who comes from a humble background from a Western Mumbai suburb held the Indian innings together. On three important occasions, she scored more than 50 against England (twice) and Australia. Diana, who has played a role in Punam’s rise as a former Mumbai player and administrator, felt she can improve her strike rate. Punam had a strike rate of 67.43 which was the least among the top 10 scorers in the tournament.

“She can further improve her strike rate. Indian batsmen, including her, have to focus on cutting down on dot balls and rotating the strike more,” Diana added.

Harmanpreet Kaur's Mumbai connection
Diana Edulji has been instrumental in also fetching a high-grade job for Punjab's Harmanpreet Kaur, who made a brilliant unbeaten 171 in 115 balls in the semi-final against defending champions Australia and scored 50 in the final against England as well as the last league game against New Zealand.

Diana wanted Kaur to play for the Mumbai-based Western Railways and took the initiative to get a written letter of recommendation from legendary cricketer and Rajya Sabha member Sachin Tendulkar. Thus she was instrumental in getting a higher grade job for Kaur in Western Railways after seeing the promise in her when she was employed by the Northern Railways.

Kaur, who hails from Moga district in Punjab, was offered a cash reward of `5 lakh and a job as the DSP in Punjab Police by Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
But Diana felt Kaur, who is currently deputed at Mumbai Central as chief office superintendent would get promoted in the Railways and might not accept the offer in Punjab Police.

"The Railways have helped her with a job when nobody came forward. She is in a good position, and I am sure she would get promoted soon after the grand show in England. I don't think she would accept the offer as the DSP," felt Diana, who has been following 28-year-old Kaur from her junior cricket days.

Tags: icc women’s world cup, punam raut, smriti mandhana