T20 WC: India look to play fearless cricket
Chasing England’s 229, India went from 191 for three to 219 all out. A year later in the 20-overs World Cup, an undefeated and in-form India topped the group stage only to be thrashed by England in the semi-final.Updated: Jan 23, 2020 22:50 IST
It is fair to say that the India women cricket team’s tale of so near yet so far from its previous two World Cup outings still plays on the players’ mind. Why, one of the most repeated words used by captain Harmanpreet Kaur in the pre-departure press conference for next month’s T20 World Cup was “pressure”.
The 30-year-old skipper was honest in admitting that the team went off track when the finishing line was in sight. The line was closer than ever in the final of the 50-overs World Cup in 2017. Chasing England’s 229, India went from 191 for three to 219 all out. A year later in the 20-overs World Cup, an undefeated and in-form India topped the group stage only to be thrashed by England in the semi-final. The two contrasting defeats had a common lesson.
“We were quite close in the last two World Cups, the only thing we have to keep in mind is how to handle pressure in the big tournaments,” Kaur said on Thursday before the team departed for Australia to play a tri-series against the hosts and England in the tune-up to the World Cup beginning February 21.
“The last two World Cups, we lacked in handling pressure. This time, we want to go out and enjoy rather than taking more pressure on ourselves, thinking that we are playing a big tournament. We just want to focus on our skills, how we should play and how to make the team win. When we do that, we tend to produce better results,” the India captain added.
Watch: Skipper Harmanpreet shares India’s strategy for Women’s T20 World Cup
It might help that in the 15-member squad picked for the World Cup, 10 of them are 23 or below. The chief protagonists of the young brigade include 15-year-old opener Shafali Verma, 19-year-old No 3 batsman Jemimah Rodrigues, 22-year-old wicket-keeper Taniya Bhatia, 19-year-old left-arm spinner Radha Yadav and 22-year-old off-break bowler Deepti Sharma, among others.
“This is a young team which is perhaps one of the best. They are enthusiastic, positive and focused,” head coach WV Raman said.
“If we’re talking about somebody like a Shafali, we all have heard of the adage, young cubs know no fear,” Raman said of the youngest member of the squad who has batted with a strike rate of 142.30 in her nine T20I innings so far.
“This is a brand of cricket that we look to play and it is a format where people need to be positive rather than wondering what happens if I get out. We need a lot more people with fresh minds and with a lot of positivity with no fear at all. I think that will be a big advantage.
“They also complement the more experienced players like Smriti (Mandhana), Harman and Veda (Krishnamurthy). I think this is a good blend,” Raman, for whom this will be the first world event since taking charge of the team in December 2018, added.
How far India can go in the tournament will depend on the team’s top-three of Verma, Mandhana and Rodrigues along with the spin trio of Yadav, Sharma and Poonam Yadav. Kaur expected the spinners to be her trump cards even on Australian wickets.
“Definitely, spin is our strength, and our spinners are doing quite well. They have always given us breakthroughs whenever we need them. So I am excited about how our spinners perform there (in Australia) and see what they do for the team,” she said.