Veda scored 70 off 45 against New Zealand © Getty Images
Veda scored 70 off 45 against New Zealand © Getty Images

In domestic circuit, Veda Krishnamurthy often walks out to bat with the swagger of a Kevin Pietersen. There is this inexplicable aura around her — making her seem larger than life. She saunters out quite slowly to the centre, takes her guard, surveys the field with a menacing, almost disdainful look in her eyes — and proceeds to play some of the most aesthetically pleasing strokes you will ever see. When in full flow, her strokeplay can rival the grace and poise of Mithali Raj, combined with the ruthlessness of Meg Lanning.

On Saturday, in a virtual quarter-final against New Zealand in Derby, with India placed precariously at 154 for 4 in the 37th over, Krishnamurthy strolled to the crease with that familiar threatening swagger. Then she proceeded to poke and prod at her first 16 deliveries, edging more than she middled on her way to 11. She looked a little unsettled, going hard at the ball and losing her shape in the process. New Zealand seemed to sense an opportunity and moved in for the kill.

Amelia Kerr has been Suzie Bates’ most attacking bowler in the World Cup. The 16-year old leg-spinner has taken 10 wickets in 6 matches, bamboozling even the most experienced batsmen with her sharp turn and an exceptional googly.

With Krishnamurthy trying to force the pace and struggling to find her timing, Kerr seemed like a good option, but there was one thing Bates didn’t take into consideration: Krishnamurthy’s liking for the cover region.

It is a well-known fact in the Indian domestic circuit that if Krishnamurthy is hitting the ball over cover, she is in fine form. The way she gets slightly leg-side of the ball, dips her shoulder, gets under the ball and extends her arms through the shot — all the while keeping her head so still — is a sight for sore eyes. It is technically one of the most difficult shots to play, but when Krishnamurthy hits it, nothing looks easier.

As if following a script, the first ball delivered by Kerr was caressed over extra-cover — Krishnamurthy dancing down the track, making a bit of room and hitting with the spin. It was a shot that seemed to break the shackles as the right hander plundered 15 runs off the 5 balls she faced in that over: Krishnamurthy was on the charge.

Having raced to 32 off 27 balls, she was dropped by Amy Satterthwaite on the mid-wicket boundary off a Lea Tahuhu full toss. If the over from Kerr had set off something in Krishnamurthy, the drop catch led to Tahuhu completely losing her radar. The fast bowler sprayed the ball on both sides of the pitch and Krishnamurthy took toll on her.

She brought up her half-century — her first in 14 ODIs — with a flat six off Bates over long-on. The celebration may have been muted, but the importance of the innings was not lost on anyone: her teammates cheering every run she scored. She proceeded to play with the field, hoicking Bates over square leg and then smashing her over mid-off when the fielder was brought inside the circle. She was in the ‘zone’ and had an answer to everything New Zealand dished out. Her 45-ball 70 gave the innings the impetus it required and allowed Raj to motor along to her 6th ODI hundred.

If there was ever an innings that defined a player, this was it.

Since her comeback to the team in 2015, Krishnamurthy has shown glimpses of brilliance, always threatening with strong starts, but finding ways to throw it away. Although she has managed four fifties since her return to the team, only one of them has come at a strike rate above 75.

On Saturday, 24-year-old Krishnamurthy showed what she is truly capable of. After a bit of a struggle, she took the game by the scruff of the neck and made sure India went into the break firmly in the driver’s seat.

She didn’t do anything cheeky or unorthodox. There was no reverse-sweep, no ‘Dilscoop’, and no ‘Natmeg’. She simply kept her head still, picked her spots in the field and backed herself to execute those shots. It was an innings that showcased her power, timing and exquisite cricket brain. She worked the angles, used her feet, ran hard between wickets and when she chose to go over the top, made sure she threw the kitchen sink at it. She batted with a sense of purpose and made sure to have fun while at it.

In short, Krishnamurthy did what she has been doing for many years in domestic cricket: she batted with a real sense of ruthlessness and that old familiar swagger.