Women’s World T20: India Vs England Semifinal Preview
Opener Smriti Mandhana has been on top form at the World T20, with 144 runs in the group stage of the tournament. (Pic: ICC World T20/Twitter)
India will never forget it. No matter how many times they win, no matter their dominance in victory, no matter the fame and acclaim they garner for their performance–the memory remains. This is a different game. A different tournament. A different format. But everybody knows what happened the last time India met England in the knockouts of a World Cup. That was Lord’s.
In the immediate aftermath of what was a heartbreaking nine run loss in the World Cup final Indian women’s cricket has seen waves and troughs that might as well be the visuals for a Guns N’ Roses song. First came the recognition, the accolades, the praise, and the recognition (much overdue) that they were no less than the male demigods who sport the same jersey. A long hangover followed. The highs of the World Cup flowing seamlessly into a string of poor results and culminating in a player revolt and the resignation of coach Tushar Arothe. A players revolt at the heart of his dismissal.
It’s not surprising that before India had played a single game at the ongoing Women’s T20 World began in the West Indies, a lot of questions were about that game and the events that followed. How did a team that seemed to have reached the pinnacle of its sport crumble so dramatically? How would India deal with the inevitable pressure of a big tournament.
Current coach Ramesh Powar dismissed this line of questioning at the departure press conference. “There are youngsters [in the side] who will react differently now to pressure,” he said. “This team is more about dominance rather than just competing. They are looking to dominate everything, every situation. That's where the pressure will be off. We've prepared for that.” No better way to put thoughts into action than when they take on their old enemies England tomorrow in the semi final in Antigua, then.
India come into the contest as the form team, having won all four of their group games -- beating New Zealand and even Australia with surprising ease! On the slow surfaces of Providence in Guyana, India’s vast repertoire of spinners came into their own. Smriti Mandhana and captain Harmanpreet Kaur’s power game was perfect to counter those conditions, and when needed Mithali Raj has done what Mithali Raj does.
When it comes to the England game, though, all bets are off. Captain Harmanpreet Kaur knows that. “We need to live in the present. At present, we’re doing really well, I think. Other than thinking about the past, we just need to think what we need to do in the next game,” she said.
The conditions in Antigua, will definitely be different, in which case England–who have a better balance of seam and spin options are well placed to take advantage.
And to add salt to an open, festering, wound the player who took the World Cup away from India at Lord’s, Anya Shrubsole, brings incredible form to the semi final. She has taken seven wickets at an average of 5.00 at this World T20, while conceding just 3.18 per over. She will be the key to containing India’s top four.
And beyond that top four? India’s problems in cricket are the same across genders. A middle order that hasn’t seen much game time hasn’t really sparkled when given the time. Against England, India might need the likes of Veda Krishnamurthy, Dayalan Hemalatha and Deepti Sharma to step up with the bat.
India’s brilliant form, particularly the drubbing they handed to Australia, will undoubtedly have raised the confidence in the camp. In sharp contrast, England’s lack lustre group stage means they have a lot to prove. They also bring the pedigree of being in the knockouts regularly and so know the game within the game.
A knockout. A chance at glory. Revenge. The old colonial foe. The raised profile of the women’s game, not just in India but across the world, makes the stakes even higher. Few games matter as much as this one.
(The game is available widely on satellite TV and online. Broadcast begins at 0530 IST)
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