Indian women cricket team aim for maiden World T20 crown
A young Indian squad will aim to emerge from the shadows of a winless past when it launches its bid for a maiden title with a tough opener against New Zealand in the first standalone Women's World T20 starting in Guyana tomorrow. India hasn't been very competitive in the shortest format compared to its last year's path-breaking performance in the 50-over game World Cup.
India had reached finals in last year's 50-over World Cup
Last year, the Indian women cricket team reached the 50-over World Cup final, played at Lord's Cricket Ground, London, but, in the end, nerves got the better of them and they lost the title clash to England, after being in complete control at one stage.
Presence of youngsters makes squad fearless, say captain, coach
Captain Harmanpreet Kaur and recently-appointed coach Ramesh Powar insist that the team has learned from that final loss and the presence of youngsters, including six World Cup debutantes, makes the squad "fearless". India has never won the World T20 in their previous five attempts. This is the first standalone World T20 for women after being held alongside the men's event in the past editions.
India so far is in good form
In the lead-up to the World T20, India have hit good form, beating hosts Sri Lanka before blanking Australia at home. What should give them additional confidence going into the opener is the wins against reigning champions West Indies and England in the warm-up matches.
Asia Cup loss was a wake-up call: Mandhana
Opener Smriti Mandhana, on whom India will be relying heavily, said the Asia Cup T20 final loss to Bangladesh in June was a timely wake-up call. "After the setback in the Asia Cup, everyone went back and worked hard. You can see everyone is up to the mark where you need to be at the international standard," said Mandhana, who is also the vice-captain.
Mandhana has gained confidence after the Sri Lanka series
Mandhana further said that the Sri Lanka series has been really good. "For me personally, I didn't get really good scores, but one match, Harmanpreet and I didn't score a single run and we got 170...The bowlers too have improved massively in last three months. They are clear with their plans. And fielding wise, we're 10% better than in the last WC," she added.
Strength: Spin department; weakness: Pace department
While Mandhana's performance will be crucial, teenager Jemimah Rodriguez, Tanya Bhatia, and Harmanpreet will make up the middle-order. The spin department, led by Poonam Yadav, is India's strength while the pace department lacks experience after Jhulan Goswami's retirement. India has failed to go past the group stage in the previous three editions and they'll have to play well consistently to advance to the knock-outs.
Mandhana to open match alongside Mithali Raj
Mandhana will be opening the match alongside Mithali Raj, captain of Indian women's cricket team in Tests and ODI. After the opener against New Zealand, India will face Pakistan on November 11 2018, Ireland on November 15 and three-time champions Australia on November 17 2018.
Coach looking forward to breaking records in the tournament
Meanwhile, Powar said he too has high hopes from his team. "They know that if we grow as individuals, the team grows, the Indian women's cricket grows, and people will start noticing the game in India and around the world," he said, adding in such tournaments "you've to break records, get noticed as an individual and team also, so I'm looking forward to that".