India Women eye elusive ICC title, open T20 World Cup campaign against Pakistan

Cape Town, 11 Feb: Searching for a long overdue ICC title, India will look to hit the straps in their Women’s T20 World Cup opener against arch-rivals Pakistan here on Sunday.
An Indo-Pak contest always creates excitement but with India being a much superior side, the quality of cricket might not meet the high expectations.
Having said that, Pakistan had got the better of India their last meeting in the Asia Cup last year with the latter making too many experiments.
In the last five years, the gulf between the two teams has widened with India challenging the supremacy of Australia and England on a consistent basis. Women’s cricket in Pakistan, on the other hand, has stagnated.
With the game scheduled a day ahead of the inaugural Women’s Premier League auction, there will be added motivation for the Indian players. For some, it could be a distraction.
India are fretting over the fitness of their skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (shoulder) and Smriti Mandhana (finger) ahead of the opening game.
A call will be taken on their participation after the practice session on Saturday.
“They both are senior players and very important for the team. Even there is a slight doubt over their readiness for the game, we will not risk playing them as it is only the first game of the tournament,” said a BCCI source.
India come into the World Cup having lost the recent tri-series final to South Africa, a match they should have won. They also lost the warm-up game to Australia before beating Bangladesh.
India are expected to reach the semifinals of the ICC event again but if they are to beat the mighty Australia, they will need to up their game in all departments.
Barring Renuka Singh, the bowling unit doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Veteran Shikha Pandey is yet to pick a wicket since her comeback last month and will be fired up to provide early breakthroughs in the showpiece.
The performance of the spinners has also been below expectations of late.
In the batting department, Harmanpreet and Mandhana need all the support. Shafali Verma, fresh from leading India to the inaugural U-19 World Cup title, will be keen to prove her doubters wrong with a consistent showing.
Pressure will be on Jemimah Rodrigues to perform as she has not been able to play an impactful knock since her comeback.
The role of pace bowling all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar will also be critical to India’s chances in the tournament.
Richa Ghosh is among the few players in the team with the X-factor and she would be relied upon heavily for big hitting in the death overs.
On Pakistan’s front, Nida Dar will be the player to watch out for.
Pakistan go into the competition having a played a series against Australia. They beat Bangladesh in their opening warm-up match before los-ing to South Africa. (PTI)