Having put up a patchy performance in the Women’s T20 World Cup thus far, India will have to lift their game drastically against nemesis Australia in the first semifinal here on Thursday. India, who have been among the top teams over the last five years but unable to win a major trophy, have expectedly made the semifinals of another ICC event. However, they have been guilty of self-destructing in the past especially in a knock-out game against England or Australia.
Australia beat India in the previous T20 World Cup final at home and more recently at Commonwealth Games gold medal match in Birmingham last year.
Women’s cricket in India has grown massively since the final appearance at the ODI World Cup in 2017 and now it is high time the team converts its promise into performance by stepping up in a do-or-die game like the one on Thursday.
Though the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side won three of its four games in the group stage, not one performance could be called convincing including the game against Ireland. Their sole loss came against England.
Considering the way India have played so far, one can only hope that somehow they are able to fix all their issues for the big game, whether it is the inconsistent top-order, the inability to hit sixes barring Richa Ghosh or the high dot ball percentage.
Opener Shafali Verma made her international debut more than three years ago and though still a teenager, she has not been able to learn from her mistakes, mainly her inability to rotate the strike and her susceptibility against the short ball.
Skipper Harmanpreet herself will be under tremendous pressure to perform having not done anything of note so far in the World Cup. She is one of the few batters who can hit the ball long but has been inconsistent for far too long.
Another loss in a World Cup knock-out game could end her captaincy tenure.
Jemimah Rodrigues has done alright in the tournament but needs to do more to help the team’s cause.
Star batter Smriti Mandhana has been among the consistent performers and once again she will be critical to the team’s chances against Australia, who are known to raise their game in a big game to ‘invincible levels’.
The Meg Lanning-led side would be carrying a 22-match T20 winning streak into the semifinal.
Australia have lost just two official matches in any format since dropping a T20 game to New Zealand in March 2021, but notably, both of those defeats have come against India. In December, they outplayed India 4-1 in the series played in Mumbai.
In the bowling department, pacer Renuka Thakur has been India’s best bowler in the event with seven wickets so far, including a five for 15 against England.
Deepti Sharma went for runs in her one over against Ireland, but she has been the most consistent in the spin department. The likes of Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav will have to be much more accurate against the rampaging Aussies.
Australia opener Betth Mooney is wary of India’s challenge though going by past results, they should win comfortably.
“I’m expecting it to be a huge contest, they’ve pushed us significantly in the last few years, and they have a bunch of match winners in that line-up as well,” Mooney told reporters here on Tuesday.
“We’re not expecting it to be easy by any means, whether it’s with a bat or the ball, but we certainly know the style of play they’ve come at us with in the past and they know ours pretty well, too.” Harmanpreet said though her team lost the home series, the players got a lot of confidence out of the high scoring five games.
“I think that series gave us a lot of confidence, you know, the brand of cricket we played in that particular series was something which gave us a lot of confidence.
“And now we know them very well. We played five games back-to-back and then one practice game, we know, their strength, their weakness.” Although wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy missed Australia’s final group game against South Africa with quad soreness, the opener is fit for Thursday’s match.
Teams (from): India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Richa Ghosh, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Radha Yadav, Renuka Thakur, Anjali Sarvani, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Shikha Pandey.
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Alyssa Healy, Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham.
Match starts at 6:30 PM.
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