Women’s T20 world Cup 2020: ‘Favourites’ India ‘need to step up as a unit’ to banish ghosts of past

The upcoming T20 World Cup will mark an important phase of Indian cricket wherein the women’s team will be heading into a major event without the services of two of its icons in Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami.

With the two legendary names having retired from T20Is, a relatively young Indian team, under Harmanpreet Kaur’s captaincy, will begin its pursuit for a maiden ICC title in the 10-team tournament to be played across 5 cities in Australia.

The memories of the 2018 T20 World Cup semi-final still remain fresh. India 89 for 2 to 112-all out in the semi-final against England before crashing out of the tournament. What followed was a tough phase for women’s cricket in the recent past. There was a public fallout between Mithali Raj who was left out for the semi-final and then coach Ramesh Powar.

Mithali and captain Harmanpreet needed time to move on from the bitter episode. Coach Ramesh Powar was sacked and WV Raman was brought on board to take the team forward.

Cut to 2020, India have headed to Australia looking forward to better things in the marquee event.

Coach WV Raman believes India, whose average age is 22.8, are ‘definitely one of the favourites’. India certainly have the team to challenge the best in the business at the T20 World Cup.

Smriti Mandhana at the top of the order is a captain’s dream. The left-hander has grown into one of the most dangerous players across formats and her T20I numbers are a testament to her growing reputation. Captain Harmanpreet Kaur had a horror year in 2019 where she managed just 152 runs in 11 matches at a woeful average of 19.00.

Her form (or the lack of it) has been a major concern for India in the recent past and it was evident in the recently-concluded tri-series in Australia. India got off to good starts but lack of contribution from the captain did not help the team’s cause.

Jemimah Rodrigues may just be 19 but her consistency at the top of the order has been a big plus to the team. So is the case with 15-year-old Shafali Verma. The teenager’s ability to take on the best bowling attacks in the world will come in handy in the big tournament in Australia. The 16-year-old strikes at 140.86.

For Australia, India have gone with a spin-heavy bowling line-up. In Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma, India have top-class spinners who can not only choke the run flow but pick up wickets at will.

With a good mix of experience and youth, India look a well-oiled unit but a lot will depend on how well they can execute their plans as a unit.

And that’s where Harmanpreet Kaur’s assessment of the team’s chances need to be taken a serious note of.

“If you want to do well as a team, you need to come up together and do well for the side,” Harmanpreet said on the eve of the tournament opener.

“Through past tournaments, we have learned that you cannot depend on just one or two players to win the game,” she added.

Recent history suggests India have struggled to step up as a team. The batting has been over-reliant on Smriti Mandhana.

The likes of Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues haven’t been able to play the big knocks. The middle-order in Harmanpreet and Veda Krishnamurthy have not stepped up. Shikha Pandey has chipped in with the bat when the others have failed. Poonam Yadav had been brilliant when no one else stepped up.

The expectations are high. With wins over South Africa, West Indies in bilateral series and impressive performances against England and Australia in the tri-series have come at the right time for the young side.

In 2017, India failed to cross the final hurdle. In 2018, they imploded in the penultimate step. It’s not going to be easy Down Under as they have been grouped alongside powerhouses Australia, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Emerging out of the group stages will need a strong show from Harmanpreet’s girls. In the last-four stages, it’s going to be anybody’s day. It will be India’s day if they don’t repeat the mistakes from the past.

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