India batter Jemimah Rodrigues vows India will continue to close the gap on Australia in spite of a heart-breaking semi-final defeat at the ICC Women's T20 World Cup on Thursday.
While enjoying several periods in the ascendancy, India were denied a spot in the T20 World Cup final, falling five runs short of Australia's 172/4.
Rodrigues played a strong hand in India's chase, making 43 off just 24 deliveries, laced with half a dozen boundaries. Picking up the pieces with skipper Harmanpreet Kaur after their side were seemingly hemmed in at 28/3, their partnership of 69 from 41 balls at one point put India ahead as favourites.
The right-hander was caught behind looking to ramp a short ball from Darcie Brown, only to find a sprawling Alyssa Healy behind the stumps for her dismissal, while Harmanpreet was dismissed four overs later, perhaps in even more unfortunate circumstances.
Returning for a second run late in the 15th over, Harmanpreet's bat jammed into the Newlands turf, with Ash Gardner's boundary throw taken by Healy, who proceeded to whip the bails off. Healy's hopeful appeal was taken upstairs, and replays showed the skipper out of her ground as the stumps were broken.
Speaking in the match's aftermath, Rodrigues admitted those key moments spoiled their efforts.
"We were going well. We had it under control," she admitted.
"If you had seen most of the times, we were above them in every phase. Just the last phase we messed up. But yeah it’s a tough loss to take.
"Harman’s (dismissal) was a very unfortunate one. I don't know what to say."
In a match of several flashpoints, Rodrigues lamented the game's infinitesimal margins. Had her ramp looped over Healy's head for a boundary to take the team's tally to three figures, the 22-year-old feels things may have panned out in a different manner.
"A little bit here and there and it would have been over the 'keeper’s head," she noted.
"The shot was still on. The same ball could have gone for four."
Yet, hypotheticals if anything make the pain of defeat only harder to stomach. For Rodrigues, the only solace is the lessons that can be learned from the defeat.
"I don't think anybody's happy. Everyone's disappointed, but at the same time, this is like a learning experience," she said.
"And I promise you that every single girl is going to work very hard."
In the eyes of Rodrigues, who has endured a rollercoaster ride in a five-year international career even at 22, several young players can hold their heads up high at the end of the campaign.
Having played 101 internationals for India already, Rodrigues looks to the likes of U19 T20 World Cup-winning starlet Richa Ghosh among others as an integral player in years to come, with her mark well and truly made on the senior team already.
Having made more than 50 international appearances since debuting for India as a 16-year-old, Ghosh played a key part in India's last T20I win over Australia, a Super Over affair on home soil in December last year. A number of strong performances with the bat at the T20 World Cup has only underlined her credentials, as she stands to make the wicket-keeper/batter role her own in the next generation of Indian cricket.
"I think the first one will be the rise of youngsters like Richa," Rodrigues said in regards to citing tournament positives.
"This India team is searching for a finisher and she can be the one, and she is actually the one for us.
"This team shows a lot of promise. And if you go to see how average age is, it’s around 24, so I imagine that we’ll be giving this Australian team competition a few years down the line."
The defending champions meanwhile on their quest for a sixth Women's T20 World Cup title will now face the winner of the second semi-final between South Africa and England on Friday.
The hosts scraped into the semi-finals after a first-up defeat to Sri Lanka, though a strong net run rate-boosting win over New Zealand dragged their campaign back on course.
The Proteas needed the help of New Zealand to beat Sri Lanka to keep the second semi-final spot alive, and the hosts made the most of their chance, beating Bangladesh at Newlands to advance to the final four.
England to this point look the biggest threat of overthrowing the Australians, securing top spot in their group with an undefeated record.