CHENNAI: There is something special about India’s campaign at this year’s women’s cricket World Cup. All of a sudden, everyone in the country is raving about the women in blue. Harmanpreet Kaur’s whirlwind knock against the Aussies in the semifinals on Thursday sent Twitter into a meltdown. For a change, Virat Kohli, Anil Kumble, Ravi Shastri and many more cricket personalities are united in appreciating the achievements of Mithali Raj and Co. This time, the girls are out there to make a statement of intent.
A quick look at the highlights of the semi finals can tell you why. When Harmanpreet was on 98, Deepti Sharma hesitated for a second run that could have jeopardised India’s innings. But somehow, the two completed the run that helped Harmanpreet reach the 100-run mark. What happens next defines the spirit of this Indian team. Instead of celebrating the usual way, Harmanpreet banged her helmet into the ground lashing out at her teammate for being sloppy.
Though the two quickly made up, Harmanpreet’s attitude showed that they are not going to go down easily. “The entire dimension of cricket has changed. It’s more demanding. There is a high level of aggression and fitness. Also, players are more professional. With more and more competitive tournaments and preparation camps, the girls have mentally and physically improved. The facilities and support have helped them become world beaters,” said Niranjana Nagarajan, who played two tests and 22 ODIs for India.
Having played with Mithali, the 28-year-old feels that the team has evolved over the years. According to her, the money factor has had a great impact. To acknowledge their excellent performance, the BCCI also announced a cash reward of `50 lakh for every member of the squad. “The BCCI contract has played a major role. Good pay motivates the players more. Without a doubt, the way we have approached batting has helped the team a lot. The bowlers and fielding have been great too. But the top order is in great shape and form and that will be key in the finals as well. I feel that we are going to have an easy win tomorrow,” Niranjana told Express.
However, the final at Lord’s — cricket’s spiritual home — is not going to be easy. The hosts have been one of the strongest sides throughout the tournament. Historically too, England have won the World Cup three times. Playing at home conditions, they are definitely favourites. But against South Africa in the semifinal, a surprising middle-order collapse shows that they have weaknesses as well. “England will be under more pressure.
They are a great side and are in fine form just like us. They also lost their first match against India. That might affect them psychologically. But after that, they found their rhythm and have never lost since. They looked like they were going down against South Africa until the last over. If the girls (India) manage to take advantage of these small errors, then we can go all the way,” said Sudha Shah, former India coach.