In her column for the ICC, former India captain Anjum Chopra talks about the factors that make Harmanpreet Kaur’s team one of the contenders for the ICC Women’s World T20 in the West Indies.
This ICC Women’s World T20 in the West Indies will be the first stand-alone tournament and that is a huge curve in the development of the game. Holding it along with the men’s event so far had its advantages but now it is on its own and the move is quite timely if you ask me.
After the success of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 in England, especially in terms of the audience, it seems the right step for the development of the women’s game. With a packed, capacity crowd at Lord’s and the host nation England playing India in the final with no men’s cricket series going on back in India; the women’s team and its players became household names.
The Indian players should expect to be in the spotlight again this time around. They play their league matches in Guyana starting at 11 am local time. Yes, there is a big-time difference of about nine-and-a-half hours with India but that will only encourage a good viewing time for the Indian audience - a late evening.
(Read: No top-three in women’s cricket anymore because all teams are doing well, writes Harmanpreet Kaur)
The West Indies women, the defending champions, will be playing in home conditions and will start as favourites. With the top two all-rounders in the world in Stafanie Taylor and Hayley Mathews backed by number-four Deandra Dottin, the opportunity lies for them to replicate their success in India in 2016.
For India, the tournament is undoubtedly a challenging one. With teams like England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand also in the mix, there remains an opportunity to succeed nevertheless. Harmanpreet Kaur will lead India for the first time in a global event and I think she is up for the challenge both as a captain and as a player.
Kaur has garnered a lot of experience and success since the last time she played in the ICC Women’s World T20 in India. An unforgettable innings of 171 not out against Australia in England that powered India to their second ICC Women’s World Cup final in 2017 is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Such knocks remain in memories forever.
Smriti Mandhana is another player who could have a major impact on the tournament. Her T20I exploits since early this year have raised her profile as a powerful stroke maker. The dependable and vastly experienced Mithali Raj will be relied on to lay that solid foundation the team would be needing for this high-octane tournament.
Striking a good balance of skills and experience for the tournament and playing in the West Indies, Mithali, Kaur and Ekta Bisht are the only remainders from the last time India toured the West Indies in 2012. That series identified the big hitting abilities of Harmanpreet where she successfully used the long handle. The way she consistently got the ball to hit the side screen at St.Kitts ground; it generated praise from all quarters.
The T20 format favours the power hitters and there has been a recognisable and noticeable change in the women’s game too. With exposure of playing T20I cricket in different parts of the world, the Indian players are also aiming at a mix of using skills with the power game.
With Ekta Bisht in the mix and having the experience of Caribbean conditions, she will be leading the strong slow bowling attack for team. India are traveling with five spinners, which may be crucial to their fortunes.
I reckon spin can be a huge weapon in the West Indies and with coach Ramesh Powar at the helm, the possibility of a strong performance is very much on the cards. A former India off spinner, Ramesh Powar has enough experience to guide the promising women’s team. A strong striker of the ball during his career, he brings the first-hand experience of playing in the shortest format. With the young all-round abilities of Jemimah Rodrigues and Pooja Vastrakar, the Indian outfit looks a good unit.
When India played the 50 over World Cup final for the first time, in 2005, in South Africa, I was a part of the team. Last year (2017), in England, when the Indian team played another final, I was a part of the commentating team. I have been privy to the change in the landscape of the game and its progress. My fellow commentators and former men’s international players have also widely acknowledged the change and the scope for the women’s game.
With the sheer numbers in Asia that are so prevalent and those who follow the game so passionately, it becomes imperative for the subcontinent teams to do well for the speedy globalisation of cricket.
In India, the women’s game has gained in stature. This tournament is another opportunity for them to consolidate their position. With the promos already running on TV, I am sure people’s attention will slowly and surely begin to focus on this tournament; keeping that the men’s international cricket calendar too is packed.
India will be required to deliver another powerful performance. A further fillip for the game is required and that can only be achieved with a strong finish in the West Indies. I remain confident and will be watching from close quarters.
(Anjum Chopra is a former India captain and now a commentator. The stylish left-hander played across formats during a 17-year international career in which she scored 548 runs in 12 Tests, 2,856 runs in 127 ODIs and 241 runs in 18 T20Is)