Time: 10:30 AM BST
Fixture: India Vs England
The Indian eves will step onto the hallowed turf at the Mecca of cricket on a midsummers Sunday morning to the manic cheers of a sellout crowd looking to propel themselves to an unprecedented maiden ICC Women’s World Cup win and to claim what many feel is their rightful place in the annals of cricket history.
History though is decidedly partisan in favor of the hosts who were not only the winners of the inaugural edition of the World Cup (Trivia: The ODI womens world cup played in 1973 pre-dates the mens version by 2 years!!) but have repeated the feat twice thereafter. In fact, the ICC womens cricket World Cup in the 44 years of its existence has been the almost exclusive fiefdom of two of its dominant superpowers, England and Australia with the Kiwis having been the aberration in 2000.
That said, the Indian ladies must take heart from the fact that they have already taken out the single biggest impediment between themselves and the coveted trophy by derailing the Aussie juggernaut which is indisputably the preeminent superpower in womens cricket having won 6 out of the 10 world cups played so far. They will also go into the final with a leg up on their rivals whom they comprehensively beat in their first game of this World Cup.
Stats are all good and dandy but the fact remains that the most consistent team through the course of such a long and arduous competition usually emerges triumphant. India’s graph leading up to this grand finale has been mostly an upward trend with a very strong start to the tournament with 4 comfortable wins on the trot and then a slight dip courtesy of a couple of setbacks against the Proteas culminating in an emphatic victory over the heralded Aussies in the semis. The best and most heartening part about this journey has been the fact that every single game has seen a different player step up and take ownership of taking India home. The centuries from the blades of Mandana and Raut during the league stages and the blockbuster 171 from Harmanpreet’s broad blade in the semi-final are signs of India’s batting prowess. And what about that diminutive young all-rounder Deepti Sharma!! She has been an absolute revelation and has wowed one and all with her unflappable temperament and her sense of purpose which is way beyond her years. She has helped lend that solidity the middle order needs and her off-breaks afford the balance her captain craves. Young Veda Krishnamurthy looks self-assured and has pitched in when called upon.
Our bowling department has been led ably by the legendary Jhulan Goswami who is perhaps playing her final World Cup but hasn’t shown any signs whatsoever of stepping into the twilight of her career. Jhulan might have lost a couple of yards in pace but the sly old speedstress still has guile in oodles and on a seaming wicket in English conditions can run through any side. Jhulan has been more than adequately supported by Shikha Sharma who has well and truly made her mark as the number 2 seamer in the side and perhaps is the heir apparent to Goswami. Poonam Yadav with her leg-breaks, Gayakwad with her left arm orthodox, Veda with her gentle seamers and Deepti with her offies are the assortment of weapons in the arsenal of the captain.
Speaking of the captain, what a privilege and pleasure has it been to stand witness to the exploits of this phenomenal cricketer. 3 fifties and one century already notched up this tournament and still counting with the big one to go. Add to that her penchant for creating record after record what with the 7 consecutive half-centuries and also the trivial matter of becoming the player to have scored the most number of runs in the history womens ODI cricket. Who can forget the incredible sight of Mithali engrossed in a novel right before she was to step out to bat in a World Cup match and one where she went on to score a breezy 70 odd! She has the ‘swag’ of a ‘soupsta’ and the skills and self-belief of a great champion. I can only fervently hope that come Sunday it shall be a case of ‘Cometh the moment, cometh the lady’!
The English ladies will certainly be no pushovers. They boast of a better record this tourney than any other team with the solitary loss coming at the hands of the Indians. This though was their very first game of the competition and they have only gone from strength to strength from that point on. They have all the pieces and bits in their squad to upset the Indian applecart. They will be raring to go and would most certainly love to hoist the winners trophy atop the iconic Lords balcony after a hiatus of 24 years in their very own backyard.
It will be an epic clash between two great sides who have thoroughly deserved to be part of the summit clash. Regardless, of who comes out on top it has been a fantastic advert for womens cricket and I’m assured in the fact that its popularity will grow exponentially as it is in the hands of such exciting talent like ‘Hard Kaur’ and ‘Silky Mandana’.
I would be remiss if on the eve of this championship clash I did not recall the trailblazers who came before this current crop and were in many ways instrumental for the for favorable condition womens cricket in India finds itself in today. There is no debating the fact that without their contributions we wouldn’t be standing on this pedestal of history.
A few of the former greats remembered: Diana Edulji, Purnima Rau, Anjum Chopra, Anju Jain and Sandhya Agarwal.
Last but not least, should the Indian eves prevail in tomorrow’s epic duel then we the fans demand that they must be ‘handsomely compensated’ by the BCCI.
Let the best women win!
*Handsomely Compensated – It is an allusion to the compensation the mens team received upon winning a World Cup.