The Indian women’s cricket team were by no means the best team in the T20 format, the records nor rankings suggest will not suggest otherwise.
But the team’s performance in their first game of the Women’s World T20 has given rise to new hope, that India can reproduce the form that they showed in the 50-over World Cup last year.
Not considered among the top T20 teams in the world, India produced a power-packed performance, winning the opener against a formidable New Zealand side by 34 runs helped by skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s 51-ball 103.
And now when the India take on arch-rivals Pakistan in its second group league match of the ICC World T20 at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on Sunday, they start as favourites.
With momentum firmly on India’s side, India would like to set the record straight after losing to their arch-rivals in the 2016 edition at home.
However, since that loss in Delhi, India have played Pakistan thrice across two editions of Asia Cup, winning all the battles.
That Pakistan lost by a comprehensive 52-run margin to Australia in their lung opener will also give India an upperhand during Sunday’s encounter.
The best aspect about India’s performance against ‘White Ferns’ was young Jemimah Rodrigues’s matured effort. With her skipper going for the jugular, 18-year-old Rodrigues just tapped for singles giving the senior player bulk of the strike. Yet, she managed to hit seven boundaries at a strike rate of 130 plus.
So much so that veteran Mithali Raj’s services wasn’t required during the Indian innings.
The Providence Stadium track proved to be helpful for the slow bowlers with India using as many as four of them in off-spinners Deepti Sharma and Dayalan Hemlatha, leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and left-arm orthodox Radha Yadav.
The spinners accounted for eight of the nine New Zealand wickets with lone seamer Arundhati Reddy picking the other scalp.
Against Pakistan, India might be tempted to use a second seamer in either Mansi Joshi or Pooja Vastrakar.
The Pakistan team has some quality players in skipper Javeria Khan, veteran spinner Sana Mir and all-rounder Bismah Maroof. Against Australia, the Pakistan batting simply fell apart chasing a target of 153.
Not a single batter could cross the individual score of 30 with Bismah’s 26 being the top scorer. The bowlers were also off the mark during the first eight overs when Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healey took them to the cleaners with a 72-run stand.
Sana’s off-day (0/32 in 4 overs) was one of the factors for Pakistan not being able to contain Australia during the initial overs.
Come Sunday, they will have an onerous task at hand against the high on confidence Indian outfit.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Taniya Bhatia, Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Veda Krishnamurthy, Anuja Patil, Poonam Yadav, Mithali Raj, Arundhati Reddy, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav.
Pakistan: Javeria Khan (captain), Aiman Anwer, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Zafar, Bismah Maroof, Diana Baig, Muneeba Ali, Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu, Natalia Pervaiz, Nida Dar, Sana Mir, Sidra Nawaz, Umaima Sohail.
Match starts 8.30 PM IST.
(With inputs from PTI)