Women’s T20 WC final: Can Harmanpreet’s Angels replicate Kapil’s Devils?

Chennai: One of India’s greatest cricketing moments is the 1983 World Cup win that completely changed the face of Indian cricket.

Before the start of that World Cup, nobody expected India to even go past the group stage, going by their dismal ODI record until then. In their first match, Kapil’s Devils faced the mighty West Indies. When odds were stacked against India,  they surprisingly defeated the defending champions to make a winning start in the tournament that served as a huge morale booster to the team.

India carried forward that momentum and despite a loss to the West Indies when the two teams faced each other for the second time, India finished second-best in the group behind the Windies to progress for the semis, which was a very big achievement. In the semis, they then did the unthinkable by thumping England to reach a dream final.

Yet again they were pitted against West Indies who were cruising to win the world title for the third time after having to chase only 183 in the final. Kapil Dev’s men, however, rose to the occasion, curtailed the Caribbeans’ run chase and scripted history by becoming the second-ever team to win the world title which is a pinnacle moment in Indian cricket that changed the fortunes of the sports in the cricket-crazy country.

Now, a similar script awaits Indian women’s cricket as they are about to face reigning world champions and heavyweights Australia in the Women’s T20 World Cup final, tomorrow.

Unlike India in 1983, the Indian women’s team have performed well in the recent past and entered the tournament as one of the favourites to win the title. But in the tournament, the team led by Harmanpreet Kaur has nearly followed the same script of the Kapil’s Devils. Like how they started the tournament by defeating Windies, India women outplayed defending champs Australia. That momentum helped them win the next three games to emerge as table-toppers.

In the semis, like 1983, Harmanpreet’s Angels were also pitted against England. But a washout made them qualify for the final directly, which will be their first-ever appearance in a T20 World Cup summit clash.

Spin strength

India’s hopes rest on its teenage prodigy, Shafali Verma, who has had a tremendous tournament by whacking bowlers all around the park right from the word go. Currently ranked number one in batting in T20s, Australia bowlers have already expressed that they don’t like to bowl to the fearless Shafali especially during the powerplay.

Having consistently scored top-scored for India in this tournament, the opener needs another good knock in the big final. Smriti Mandhana and skipper Harmanpreet, however, are having a silent tournament so far and they also must return back to their best.

India’s bowling is heavily dependent on the spinners. Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav and Deepti Sharma might look to exploit their opponent’s weakness against the turning ball yet again as Australia batters faired poorly against them in the tournament opener.

However, India so far has not chased even once in the tournament and it remains to be seen how they play if they get to chase a total against the hosts, who have won their last three matches by defending totals. Also, India has not played a match in the last eight days which has hampered the team’s preparation for the final but the skipper hopes that they can rise to the occasion.

Home advantage

Chasing a second-consecutive T20 World Cup win, for Australia home advantage will be a huge boost in the final which is expected to draw a big crowd to cheer the home team. Beth Mooney is currently the third-highest run-scorer for Australia. The prolific batter will once again be the key player for the hosts.

In terms of bowling, medium-pacer Meghan Schutt leads the wicket-takers table jointly with Poonam Yadav with nine scalps. Added to that skipper Meg Lanning and spinner Jonassen who recently helped Australia win the final of the tri-series against India can be a threat to India.

However, Elysse Perry’s injury is a big setback to the women in yellow ahead of the crucial final. Also their main challenge will be to tackle the Indian spinners and that will play a crucial role in the final.

If Harmanpreet’s Angels manage to win the World Cup, for the first-ever time, like what happened in 1983, though the format is different, it will have a similar impact and will serve as a huge morale booster for the development of women’s cricket in the country.

Aaditya Anand M