Can Mithali Raj and Co clinch elusive title?

For many, the 2017 final of the ICC Women’s ODI Cricket World Cup at Lord’s was a turning point. Despite falling agonisingly short, the Indian team – pictured heartbroken on that day in London but welcomed back in India with fanfare – turned an important corner at the tournament.

The 2013 World Cup in India was an exception, otherwise India have a strong record at the ODI World Cups, starting from 1997.

“Here’s hoping that things go well for India because I’ve seen normally, India comes alive in the World Cups,” former India captain Mamatha Maben told Scroll.in in a recent interview. “In the bilaterals, they may not but somehow, in the World Cup, things are different. The underdog thing helps India. In the start, everyone will back Australia or England based on their strength on paper but eventually, it will so happen that India is also added in the list. They have got quality players and they just need one or two good games for the confidence to come in and set rolling. So far, the trend has been that in World Cups, we try to give our best. “

All eyes will be on Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, the two stalwarts of Indian cricket who have provided stellar service to the game for years and years. In 2022, there might be gaps in the Indian squad and a few areas of concern but it cannot be argued that the support cast surrounding the veterans is also dripping with star quality. In Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, Shafali Verma and of course, Harmanpreet Kaur, India have match-winners in the squad.

Since Jul 24, 2017 (8 participating teams)

Team Mat Won Lost Tied NO W / L Scoring rate Highest score Lowest score
AUS 33 31 2 0 0 15,500 5.44 332 241
ENG 41 23 17 0 1 1,352 4.89 347 75
IND 40 19 21 0 0 0.904 4.60 302 113
NZ 40 16 24 0 0 0.666 5.05 491 93
PAK 34 11 21 1 1 0.523 4.04 265 70
BAN 12 6 6 0 0 1,000 3.43 211 71
SA 43 28 10 3 2 2,800 4.44 299 63
WI 39 13 22 2 2 0.590 3.96 292 105
(Records as of before World Cup 2022 began)

India’s results since they resumed playing cricket in March 2021 (after an unfortunate one-year break from the historic 2020 T20 World Cup final) have not been ideal in the format. But what is worth pointing out here is that series defeats have come against South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand: in that, India have arguably played the four best teams in the world. And came close to winning a series against Australia as well, while the 4-1 scoreline doesn’t quite do justice to how closely contested the New Zealand-India series was. In essence, India’s series defeats in the build-up to the World Cup need a bit of context and also, they have the advantage of playing in New Zealand for the last month or so. The two warm-up matches against South Africa and West Indies too resulted in wins.

As things stand, batting seems to be in a better space than bowling and fielding. Plenty will be riding once again on Jhulan Goswami and the spinners to be led by Deepti Sharma. Whether the rest of the bowling attack can chip in with wickets in middle overs will determine India’s fortunes. It is also worth keeping an eye on whether packing the side with bowling options could potentially end up putting more pressure on the batting unit that has otherwise been in good touch in Australia and New Zealand, scoring 250-plus consistently.

And while Australia has been by some distance the best side in the world recently, India came agonisingly close to ending their record winning streak once and then went on to do it anyway in the next match.

India’s results since Jan 2021

Team Result Margin Opposition Ground Start Date
India lost 8 wickets v SA Lucknow 7 Mar 2021
India won 9 wickets v SA Lucknow 9 Mar 2021
India lost 6 runs v SA Lucknow 12 Mar 2021
India lost 7 wickets v SA Lucknow 14 Mar 2021
India lost 5 wickets v SA Lucknow 17 Mar 2021
India lost 8 wickets v ENG Bristol 27 Jun 2021
India lost 5 wickets v ENG Taunton 30 Jun 2021
India won 4 wickets v ENG Worcester 3 Jul 2021
India lost 9 wickets v AUX Mackay 21 Sep 2021
India lost 5 wickets v AUX Mackay 24 Sep 2021
India won 2 wickets v AUX Mackay 26 Sep 2021
India lost 62 runs v NZ Queenstown 12 Feb 2022
India lost 3 wickets v NZ Queenstown 15 Feb 2022
India lost 3 wickets v NZ Queenstown 18 Feb 2022
India lost 63 runs v NZ Queenstown 22 Feb 2022
India won 6 wickets v NZ Queenstown 24 Feb 2022

India’s meetings against Pakistan have gone down in international cricket of course, and the bilaterals didn’t happen in recent past. And so the last meeting between the sides came in 2017 at the World Cup. Indian women are yet to lose an ODI against Pakistan.

India’s H2H against PAK (10-0)

Team Result Margin Opposition Ground Start Date
India won 95 runs v PAK Derby 2 Jul 2017
India won 7 wickets v PAK Colombo (PSS) 19 Feb 2017
India won 6 wickets v PAK Cuttack 7 Feb 2013
India won 10 wickets v PAK Bowral 7 Mar 2009
India won 207 runs v PAK Dambulla 9 May 2008
India won 182 runs v PAK Kurunegala 5 May 2008
India won 103 runs v PAK Jaipur 19 Dec 2006
India won 80 runs v PAK Jaipur 13 Dec 2006
India won 10 wickets v PAK Karachi 2 Jan 2006
India won 193 runs v PAK Karachi 30 Dec 2005

Captain’s corner

Despite the attention attached to a clash between these two sides, both the India and Pakistan captains are treating their match-up in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 as just another game.

For India’s Mithali Raj, the match is the chance to build momentum as India go for a first World Cup title.

She said: “I think as a team we are excited to get into the World Cup and starting our campaign tomorrow. It’s the first game, we are not looking at it as it’s Pakistan we are playing against, we’re looking at a team which has come prepared and we are equally prepared to put our best foot forward and we want to set a momentum going into the tournament, so that’s how we look at our first game.

“Every time we play a World Cup, every game is very different – different locations, different conditions, different opponent.

“We’ve tried to give everybody a go in the warm-up game, so that everybody gets into the rhythm, they form the core players – and for tomorrow’s game I think all of them have been watching the first opening game and everybody has their set plans. “

As Raj embarks on her sixth World Cup, a record for the women’s event, she shared her message for the Women in Blue.

“I think as a team, we need to get in with a clean slate, confident unit,” Raj explained. “And believe that we can always turn things around and play according to the situation. It’s very important when you have a longer tournament – important to be present.

“Be aware on the ground and play according to the situation.”

Read more: Full text of Mithali Raj’s pre-match press conference and what she said at the captains’ press conference.

History at the tournament

Best result (s): Runners-up 2005, 2017

Twice beaten finalists, India had one hand on the 2017 trophy before Anya Shrubsole’s magic spell turned the tide.

Their previous runners-up finish came in 2005, a tournament which saw Neetu David – now the chairperson of the BCCI’s women’s selection committee – took 20 wickets at 8.35 with her left-arm spin.

Captain Mithali Raj, who made her competition debut in 2000, is the only current player to have more than 1,000 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup runs to her name.

via ICC Media Guide
via ICC Media Guide

Current squad

Mithali Raj (Captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh (wicket-keeper), Sneh Rana, Jhulan Goswami, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh Thakur, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav.

Standby Players: Sabbhineni Meghana, Ekta Bisht, Simran Dil Bahadur

Read more about India’s squad here.

Players to watch out for

Stalwarts:

Jhulan Goswami : She made her tournament debut at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2005.

The right-armer has taken 36 wickets and is just four shy of breaking Lyn Fullston’s all-time record of 39 at World Cups.

Mithali Raj: She will play in a record sixth World Cup having featured first back in 2000.

Since then, she has played 31 matches and scored 1139 runs, the fifth-most of any player, while her nine half-centuries put her one behind New Zealand legend Debbie Hockley.

She is likely to break Belinda Clark’s record of most World Cup matches as captain, needing just three more to surpass Clark’s 23.

Debutant:

Richa Ghosh had amassed 76 runs before she was dismissed in ODI cricket in her second game, and she did so against Australia as they reached the end of a 26-match unbeaten streak.

In the next game where the streak was finally broken, Ghosh scored a duck but had already provided a vital contribution taking the catch to dismiss the dangerous Tahlia McGrath and bring about the collapse of Australia’s tail.

Against New Zealand just prior to the World Cup, the wicket-keeper continued her fine run-scoring form including a 65 that was followed by a knock of 52 off 29 balls, the fastest fifty an Indian woman batter.

New Zealand, same old zeal: From 2000 to 2022, Mithali Raj closes a World Cup loop

Fixtures

  1. PAKISTAN vs INDIA, Sun 06 March 06:30 IST, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
  2. NEW ZEALAND vs INDIA, Thu 10 March 06:30 IST, Seddon Park, Hamilton
  3. WEST INDIES vs INDIA, Sat 12 March 06:30 IST, Seddon Park, Hamilton
  4. ENGLAND vs INDIA, Wed 16 March 06:30 IST, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
  5. INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, Sat 19 March 06:30 IST, Eden Park, Auckland
  6. INDIA vs BANGLADESH, Tue 22 March 06:30 IST, Seddon Park, Hamilton
  7. INDIA vs SOUTH AFRICA, Sun 27 March 06:30 IST, Hagley Oval, Christchurch

Excerpts for this article taken from ICC Online Media Zone (Courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020)

Statistics courtesy ICC and ESPNCricinfo.

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