Mount Maunganui: The Indian women’s cricketer hopes its bowlers find top form to complement the efforts of a solid batting unit as it begins its quest for an elusive ICC World Cup trophy with its opening game against arch-rival Pakistan here on Sunday.
Second in the 2017 and 2005 editions, India is eager to take it a step further and claim the title that has eluded them, most notably skipper Mithali Raj and veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, who will play their final World Cup.
The Indian team reached New Zealand a month earlier to acclimatize to the conditions.
However, the bowlers struggled in comparison to the hitting unit, who managed to score over 250 runs five times in the seven 50 overs, including two warm-up games.
The bowling unit let the team down all series against New Zealand, which India lost 1-4. It defended no more than 270 goals in two games, while conceding a massive 191 in 20 overs in a rain-limited game of the ODI series.
They put in a much better performance in the fifth ODI and the two warm-up games and Raj will hope the batting and bowling units can fire at the same time.
“From the previous series or the warm-up games, all we can take is confidence, and how you negotiate the conditions in the middle, how you play according to the situation is just really important,” Raj said at the pre-match press conference .
The pace department will be led by the ever-reliable Goswami, who has continued to pick wickets for India on a regular basis, while Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar and Renuka Singh should do more to quickly replenish the veteran.
Spinner Deepti Sharma was the leading wicket taker in the bilateral series, while Rajeshwari Gayakwad looked good in the warm-up games, but consistency will be key.
However, it remains to be seen whether Raj hands the ball to Harmanpreet Kaur.
The team would have breathed a sigh of relief after Kaur, a vital cog in the side and considered a great player, found himself in between runs after an extended stint.
The pressure will be on opener Shafali Verma, who appeared to be of suit, to get off to a solid start alongside Smriti Mandhana, a batter with a fine touch.
Raj, who continues to anchor the Indian innings, has hinted that Deepti, who has been good with the bat and the ball, will hit top at number 3 or 4, while Kaur is expected to hit at five.
Young Rich Ghosh, who scored back-to-back against New Zealand for half a century, is expected to start for Taniya Bhatia.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is the lowest ranked team in the tournament. They qualified for the World Cup because of their rankings after qualifying was canceled midway through last year due to COVID-19.
After finishing bottom three times, Pakistan’s best ever result at the World Cup came in 2009 when they reached the Super 6 stage. They hope they can make it to the knockouts this edition.
Bismah Maroof and Co. also achieve consecutive wins in the warm-up matches. They beat New Zealand before beating Bangladesh.
As they won the two games, it was the lower order and the bowlers who saved them. Pakistan would thus hope that its highest order can fire.
“The things we didn’t do well last year, we talked about… whoever takes the pressure well, that team will win; so we hope for a good game tomorrow,” Pakistan Bismah Maroof said on Saturday.
In the bowling department, Pakistan has mostly relied on spinner Nashra Sandhu to get wickets for them. They would need the pacesetters to join the party too.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Harmanpreet Kaur, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Rich Ghosh (wk), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Sneh Rana, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Jhulan Goswami, Renuka Singh.
Pakistan: Aliya Riaz, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali (wk), Nahida Khan, Bismah Maroof (c), Sidra Ameen, Nida Dar, Anam Amin, Omaima Sohail, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Aiman Anwer, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Ghulam Fatima, Nashra Sandhu.
Match starts 6:30 am IST.
Australia mourns Shane Warne: Prime Minister offers state funeral