Kolkata: The Indian women’s team are on the verge of scripting history as they stand just one win away from getting their hands on the World Cup for the very first time in their cricketing history, when the girls take on hosts England at Lord’s today.
The tournament has been a mixed one for Mithali Raj and co but they have peaked at the right moment and have entered the finals in dramatic fashion after handing the defending champions Australia a 36-run defeat in the second semi-final.
In the tournament opener, it was India who had got the better of England by 35 runs. Smriti Mandhana, the 21-year old left-handed opener had grabbed the limelight for her solid performances in the first two matches but has failed to make a mark since then.
The middle order led by the likes of the consistent Mithali Raj (who is second behind Ellsye Perry in the leading run-scorer’s list in this year’s World Cup) looks stable and not many would count Harmanpreet Kaur out of the equation, especially after her statement-making 171* run knock against the top quality Australian side in the last match.
The bowling seems to be well-settled too with the likes of Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey and Deepti Sharma picking up wickets at crucial times.
“It definitely is not going to be easy for England, but having beaten Australia, I am sure the girls are on a high but it will boil down to how we perform on the day. Playing the hosts in their own country is going to be a challenge but this unit is up for it,” said Mithali on the epic final that awaits us.
But the English women’s team has been absolutely ruthless. Their only defeat in the league stage came at the hands of India but they have looked literally unbeatable in all the other matches they have played.
Skipper Heather Knight has led her team from the front with the bat scoring 363 as she stands fourth in the list of the top run-getters in this edition of the tournament. Tammy Beaumont is the third in the list as she has scored 24 runs more than her captain. Wicketkeeper batswoman Sarah Taylor has been in supreme touch with the willow as well and the hosts’ batting order will not be an easy one to run through.
On the bowling front, skipper Heather Knight leads the charge here as well as she is England’s highest wicket-taker in the tournament with eight scalps. Natalie Sciver, who has made a name for herself with the, ‘Nutmeg’ shot bowls effective medium pace and her career best figures of 3/3 in their last group game against the West Indies speaks volumes of her bowling prowess. Left-arm spinner Alex Hartley too is in good form.
India might have an edge walking into the final since they have beaten the same opponents earlier in the tournament but all that wouldn’t matter as both the teams would look to start afresh and play to their potential to make a mark on the big day.
It was 34 years ago at the iconic Lord’s stadium where India led by Kapil Dev had not only defeated the West Indies to lift their maiden World Cup trophy but this historic win had paved the way for India to become a cricketing superpower in the years to come. Now, the situation with the Indian women’s team is just the same. A victory would do a world of good for revolutionising women’s cricket in India.
With their strong performances in the World Cup, their has been an increased buzz about Mithali Raj and her team and many believe that this is the best chance for the Indian eves to add the World Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Raj is however the only Indian women’s skipper to have led her team to two World Cup finals and having lost out on the first occasion, she would definitely want to make this opportunity count. If they end up winning it, veterans Jhulan Goswami and the captain herself would take away fond memories of the game as this would presumably be their last World Cup.