The year’s marquee cricket event – women’s or men’s – the ICC Women’s World T20 is set to begin in West Indies on Friday, 9 November. It’s the first time women cricketers get to enjoy a standalone WT20, as opposed to a shared spotlight (read: shadow) with the men.
For India, it’s a shot at showing how far they’ve come since their inspired run into the ICC Women’s World Cup final in 2017 – considered, by many, as a watershed moment for women’s cricket in India.
So what’s the Indian setup like heading into the ten-team competition? Who are India’s opponents in the group stage? Can the Indian team go on another surging run and last the distance in the Caribbean? The Quint gets you a ready-reckoner ahead of their tournament opener against New Zealand in Guyana.
Who’s in the Squad?
For those who abandoned women’s cricket for the last 15-and-a-bit months after India’s runners-up finish at the World Cup and are back – things aren’t quite the same. Jhulan Goswami is gone, for one (from T20Is only). The iconic fast bowler’s decision was her own, but coincides with a shift to a more youthful setup for the crash-and-bang format of the game.
Three of India’s 15-member squad traveling to the Caribbean are in their teens; six hadn’t played international cricket prior to this year.
This isn’t to say it’s an all-exuberance camp – experience is present in abundance, through the evergreen Mithali Raj, while captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana are firmly established as the better batters around women’s cricket right now.
New coach Ramesh Powar has made his spin-to-win mantra amply clear, and India will have as many as six, if not seven, spin-bowling options to call upon over the coming fortnight.
How Does the Form-Book Read?
Pretty good, actually. India enter the competition with the most wins, and the second-highest win rate, in T20Is this year. Vitally, the Women in Blue reach the Windies shore with much more 20-over cricket behind them than they are accustomed to: with 20 outings already this year, India have matched their combined tally of T20Is played through the previous three calendar years.
The breakdown of the wins and losses, though, provides reason for doubt. India were impressive in notching up a 3-1 series win in South Africa in February, and commanding in dispatching Sri Lanka 4-0 in Sri Lanka in September – but two multi-team events have come with their share of negatives.
Harmanpreet Kaur’s side failed to reach the final of a home tri-series involving heavyweights Australia and England, and even more disappointingly, went down twice to Bangladesh – a team they had never lost to before – at the Asia Cup in Malaysia, including a shock defeat in the summit clash.
The immediate form, however, should instill confidence, with India getting the better of WT20 holders West Indies and WC-winners England in their two warm-up games,
Who Are the Key Cogs in the Wheel?
The triumvirate of Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur give India one of the more solid-looking top-orders in the tournament – which gets an extra dash of potency through the exciting rise of the prodigious Jemimah Rodrigues.
Also Read: Meet Jemimah Rodrigues: A Star in the Making
While vice-captain Mandhana hasn’t quite replicated her sublime form across formats in 2017 this year, 35-year-old Raj has maintained her consistency of decades despite openly admitting to not liking the T20 format. Captain Kaur succeeds in bolstering the scoring rate in the death overs more often than not, but Rodrigues’ impact from No. 3 – she boasts a strike rate of 137 after 14 matches – could be the telling differentiator in the final count.
Clearly, a lot will rest on the batting to come good if India are to make a deep run in West Indies, but the nature of the tracks brings India’s spinners into play as well.
Poonam Yadav and Ekta Bisht are measly customers, while Deepti Sharma and Anuja Patil aid the team’s balance through their all-round capabilities.
Where/When/Who Do India Play?
Drawn in Group B, India will face the onerous task of having to better at least one out of Australia and New Zealand if they are to reach the knockout stage. Only the top-two teams from two groups of five each go through to the semi-finals.
Friday, 9 November: vs New Zealand, Guyana (8:30 pm IST)
Sunday, 11 November: vs Pakistan, Guyana (8:30 pm IST)
Thursday, 15 November: vs Ireland, Guyana (8:30 pm IST)
Saturday, 17 November: vs Australia, Guyana (8:30 pm IST)
What is India’s WT20 Past?
Not the greatest. It has been eight years since India progressed beyond the opening round at the World T20, this after reaching the semis at the first two editions in 2009 and 2010. The last three World T20s – 2012, 2014 and 2016 – have seen India win just thrice in 11 matches, but they did exorcise some big-stage demons by making it all the way at the 50-over World Cup in England last year.
The feel-good factor from last summer in England lends optimism about India’s chances in West Indies, most of which isn’t misplaced given the overall strength and largely-rapid growth of the squad. But the presence of Australia and New Zealand – both strong contenders and virtual ever-presents in the World T20 knockouts – makes it a giant task for the World Cup runners-up to go beyond the opening stage.
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