World Cup: Indian women ready to break early-exit jinx

When Mithali Raj says India will not rest on its laurels, she clearly indicates that the team will not be taking things easy when the action begins at the Women’s World Cup on Saturday.

With history clearly showing that India has the habit of stumbling early in ICC events, the gang of girls would certainly be hoping to get off to a winning start.   -  Sandeep Saxena

When Mithali Raj says India will not rest on its laurels, she clearly indicates that the team will not be taking things easy when the action begins at the Women’s World Cup on Saturday. The Indian eves, who are in quality form for the last couple of months, would be squaring off against host England in the opening encounter, and that certainly would be a big batch for the women in blue.

With history clearly showing that India has the habit of stumbling early in International Cricket Council (ICC) events, the gang of girls would certainly be hoping to get off to a winning start. Even, India’s former cricketers believe that should be India’s attitude before the tournament opener.

“India may not have qualified directly, but the qualifying round has given them more experience and has bolstered the confidence. The girls should maintain that confidence level,” former captain and erstwhile national selector Shanta Rangaswamy tells Sportstar.

The former captain also believes that with a balanced line-up, India has the perfect chance of sailing through to the last-four. “We have a great spin attack. Even though the batting department mainly revolves around Mithali, the other players like Harmanpreet (Kaur) and Veda (Krishnamurthy) also need to get back their form to help India do well in the tournament,” Rangaswamy adds.

Rangaswamy feels that the team should pick up from where it left off from the qualifying rounds. “If our batters can put 200 runs on the board, our bowlers would be able to defend it. With such a good side, we should certainly eye the top-four slot,” the former captain says.

In all likelihood, this would be the last World Cup for India’s two driving forces — Mithali and Jhulan Goswami. And, Rangaswamy feels this would motivate them more. “They would be hoping to end campaign on a high. This is a big moment for them,” she says.

Former India coach Purnima Rau too has a similar thought. Knowing the players inside out, Rau feels the Indian eves can make it to the final with a bit of luck. “In the lead up to the World Cup, the team has enjoyed tremendous success and it would definitely keep the morale high before the tournament,” Rau adds.

She firmly believes that in a tournament such as the World Cup, it is crucial for the team to bond. “We have done well in all the departments, so we should not be worried about anything. Playing fearless cricket would actually do us a piece of good,” she says.

India’s record in the Women’s World Cup hasn’t been all that good in the last two editions, having exited early in 2009 and 2013. Nooshan Al Khadeer, a member of the 2005 team that finished runner-up to Australia, agrees that with players in prime form, India has a great chance at glory. “The team is in great form. Not just Mithali or Harmanpreet, batters like Poonam Raut and Dipti Sharma have also done well in the recent past. So, there is not much burden on Mithali alone,” she avers.

While she is happy with the way India has shaped itself up, Nooshan is concerned about the English conditions. “Getting acclimatised is the main thing. As home team, England will be a good side, but India can also make it count,” Nooshan says. But then, team India can take solace from the fact that the recently concluded Champions Trophy was a run-feast.

In the past too, the Indian eves have flattered to deceive despite strong lead-ups to the tournament. But, as another mega event nears, Mithali would be hoping to get the house in order.