As the ongoing T20 World Cup in South Africa gets to the business end, the knockout fixtures are all set. Indian girls are scheduled to play Australia in the first semi-final at Capetown. Indian Girls defeated their Irish counterpart narrowly in their last league match in a rain-affected game ending up second on the points table of Group B.
Australia has been a nemesis for the Indians. Who can forget the finals of the last Women’s T20 World Cup in Melbourne or the finals of the Commonwealth Games last year where Women’s cricket was being played for the first time ! India was on the receiving end at the hands of Aussies on both occasions and similar to the knock-out woes of the men’s team, the Indian girls are also used to heartbreaks in such crunch moments. While India looks for their first ICC title in Senior Women’s cricket, it is not at all going to be an easy path for them.
How does the Indian side shape up going into the semis?
The Indian girls cricket team does have its share of superstars and rather, match-winners in Women’s cricket. Be it the elegant yet blasting left-handed opener Smriti Mandhana or captain Harmanpreet Kaur, dashing Shafali Verma or finisher Richa Ghosh, all-rounder Deepti Sharma or the gun pacer Renuka Singh Thakur, all of them have earned a good reputation of winning the games for their side.
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Especially in the batting department, the batters have somewhat risen to the occasion in this tournament. Mandhana is currently second on the list of highest scorers in the tournament with a very healthy strike rate in excess of 140. Young Richa Ghosh has also shown promise in the games against Pakistan and England with crucial finishing knocks. Jemimah Rodrigues started well with the match-winning performance against Pakistan but went cheaply in the following games.
Shafali has been decent on the top with Smriti providing India with good starts. India would definitely want a bit more from captain Harmanpreet and star all-rounder Deepti Sharma. The batting seems to be revolving around Smriti Mandhana at the moment and the middle order has to step up with more partnerships.
The scoring rate is also something that the Indian girls would like to step up because they should be in a position to score in excess of 160 runs in a knock-out game against the likes of Australia or England. In such a situation, the batting form of Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar become very significant for the women in blue.
Concerns remain in the bowling department
In the bowling department, Renuka Singh Thakur has held the baton in her own hands giving India a good start in the powerplay. She took 5 wickets in the game against England. However, spin bowling, which used to be the forte of India has been lackluster in the tournament so far. Deepti Sharma has not been at her best with the ball and the two left-arm spinners Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav have been far from impressive yet. India is definitely missing the services of off-spinner Sneh Rana who would have brought variety with her right arm off spin but if India has to claim its stake over the trophy, they need the spinners to do much better than what they are doing currently. If not wickets, India would want that the spinners contain the batters in the middle overs, which hasn’t been the case so far.
Despite all the misses so far, India should be looking to bring their A game against the Aussies because nothing short of that can challenge the reigning champions. In their recently concluded five-game T20 series against the Aussies, India struggled to contain the star-studded Aussie batting lineup of Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, and Elyse Perry. This batting lineup can’t just get better and India would really want to take regular wickets to keep Australia in check.
Watershed Moment for Women’s Cricket in India
A couple of weeks back, women’s cricket did see a crucial breakthrough in the form of players’ auction for the first edition of the much-awaited Women’s Premier League. Australia and England have gained heavily from their domestic T20 leagues, the Women’s Big Bash League and The Hundred. India is looking to replicate the same success story in their women’s cricket chapter. In the last few years, Women’s cricket has gained real traction among the Indian audience and many of the players have now become household names in India. A world cup title in such a scenario will definitely do wonders for the popularity of women’s cricket in India.
Not long ago, the Indian girls led by Shafali Verma won the inaugural Under-19 Women’s World Cup and received accolades from all corridors of the country. Now, the senior girls will also want to do well in the knock-outs of the T20 World Cup which can be a great boost to the Women’s Premier League, scheduled to begin right after the ongoing tournament.