ICC Women's World Cup: India Begin Campaign For Elusive Prize Against Hosts Australia
India will be seeking consistency, something they lack desperately, as they begin their ICC Women's T20 World Cup campaign with a dauting opener against Australia.
The Indian women's T20 World Cup squad begin their quest for elusive ICC silverware with possibly one of the toughest matches of their campaign when they take on powerful hosts Australia in the first match in Sydney on Friday. India, who had begun the tri-series against Australia and England prior to the World Cup with quite a bang, began to peter out towards the end and holes began to show, though they did make the final. These gaps they will have to plug in order to have a realistic chance in the tournament. Inconsistency has plagued India for a long time and a classic example was their performance in the recently held tri-series in Australia where they reached the final.
They won and lost a game against the more accomplished England and Australia before losing to the mighty hosts, who have won the T20 World Cup a record four times out of the six editions held so far.
India's middle and lower-order needs to do a lot better than what it has been doing to beat the likes of Australia and England in the knock-out stages, something that has been acknowledged star opener Smriti Mandhana.
The team needs to ensure that the frequent middle-order collapses are not repeated in the showpiece event.
The southpaw and 16-year-old Shafali Verma will have to get India off to a flying start often in the competition.
Expectations are high from skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, who too has suffered from inconsistency and would like to correct that, beginning with the opener against Australia.
It remains to be seen if the other 16-year-old in the squad, Richa Ghosh, gets to play regularly as she made her international debut only in the final of the tri-series.
In the bowling department, they have heavily relied on spinners with not many quality pacers to choose from.
Shikha Pandey, who is often the lone pacer in the playing eleven full of spinners, has the crucial task of providing early breakthroughs.
"As an opening bowler, I'm obviously thinking about the early breakthroughs and that doesn't change," said Pandey, India's fifth-highest wicket-taker in T20s.
"In the first six, we are trying to take wickets and then it's about containing the batters before coming back and bowling the best you can in the death overs.
"I would say 150 is now a par score in a T20 game, so the first six overs batters actually get a lot of freedom and try to hit as many runs as possible," she added.
The squad is expected to reach the last four as it had two years ago but the growing women's game in India will get a further fillip only if they go all the way.
Head coach W V Raman thinks his team is one of the title favourites.
"Since (2018 World T20) then there has been a lot of improvement, in terms of fitness, agility on the field and their approach to batting," Raman was quoted as saying in ESPNCricinfo.
They take on Australia, who could not have asked for a better build-up to the tournament. They finalised their combinations during the tri-series and are backing themselves to triumph at home.
Australia: Meg Lanning (capt), Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (vice-capt), Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Harleen Deol, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Richa Ghosh, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav.
Match starts at 1:30pm IST.
(With PTI inputs)