The International Cricket Council (ICC) Women's T20 World Cup is being held in Australia from 21st February to 8th March 2020. This is the seventh edition of the Women's T20 World with Australia having won the title on 4 previous occasions while England and West Indies have managed to win the title once each.
A total of 10 teams took part in the current edition of the tournament and they were divided into two groups of 5 team each. Group A comprised of India, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh while Group B comprised of England, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies and debutants Thailand.
India and Australia qualified for the semi-finals from Group A with India topping the group after winning all their matches including a 17 run win against Australia in the opening match of the tournament. Australia on the other hand, just managed to scrape through to the semi-finals with a 4-run win in their last encounter against New Zealand.
South Africa and England qualified for the semi-finals from Group B with South Africa topping their group winning all the matches barring a washout against the West Indies. England finished as the runner-up in Group B winning all their matches other than the defeat to South Africa.
In the semi-finals, India was supposed to take on England while Australia was drawn to meet South Africa. The India-England semi-final was washed out without a ball being bowled enabling India to qualify for the finals by virtue of them finishing at the top of the table in Group A. The rain relented somewhat and allowed the other semi-final to take place with Australia emerging the victors by 5 runs via the D/L method.
Also see – Indian Premier League 2020 schedule
India would be facing Australia in the final of the Women's T20 World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 8th March, International Women's Day. The Indian team would be hoping to replicate their performance against Australia from the group stage and lift the Women's T20 World Cup Trophy for the first time.
Although the whole Indian team has stood out in this tournament, the young and dynamic Shafali Verma has been the standout performer with the bat while the wily Poonam Yadav has been the star performer with the ball.
Cricket being a team game, a concerted effort would be required from the whole team for India to lift the title but a brilliant individual performance can tilt the balance of the match at any stage, especially in T20 cricket. Keeping this in mind, we would like to take a look at 5 Indian cricketers who could play a pivotal role for India to win the T20 World Cup title.
#5 Deepti Sharma
Deepti Sharma will be playing the pivotal all-rounder's role for the team. She has had a pretty consistent tournament with both the bat and ball, and is an exceptional fielder as well. She has the best batting average for India in the tournament averaging a healthy 41.50 with her highest score of unbeaten 49 coming in the crucial win against Australia in the tournament opener. Although Deepti may have picked just a couple of wickets in the tournament, she has been very economical (economy of 5.75) and has bowled the crucial overs for the team both in the Power play and at the death. The team would be expecting a similar performance from her both with the ball and with the bat, where she might be required to provide the required acceleration coming into bat towards the end of the innings.
#4 Poonam Yadav
Poonam Yadav has been the star bowler for India and is the joint highest wicket taker in the tournament along with Megan Schutt of Australia with 9 wickets in her kitty. The wily leg-spinner had turned the Group stage match against Australia in India's favour by breaking the back of the Australian batting, claiming 4 quick wickets after Australia had got off to a brisk start chasing India's total of 132.
The 2019 Arjuna award winner had a tough time in the match against New Zealand, with Amelia Kerr managing to score 18 runs in the innings' penultimate over by predominantly looking to score behind the wicket off the back-foot. Poonam will have to be wary of this as the Australians might try to use the same tactic to unsettle her and the diminutive leg-spinner may have to come up with alternate plans to overcome this tactic.
#3 Shafali Verma
Shafali Verma has been like a breath of fresh air at the top of the order. She has taken all the opposition attacks to the cleaners with her ball striking in the power play overs. She has been the standout batter for India with an aggregate of 161 runs, the only Indian to cross the 100-run mark, and that too with a strike rate of 161.
Her exploits over the course of the tournament has even taken her to the top of the ICC women's T20I rankings for batters. Even in the group stage match against Australia, Shafali had scored a brisk 29 of 15 balls that turned out to be crucial in the end result. She will look to continue with the same momentum in the final as well.
#2 Smriti Mandhana
Smriti Mandhana is regarded as the most accomplished batter in the Indian line-up. When on song, the grace and timing in her batting are a sight to behold. But she has had a relatively poor run in the tournament having aggregated just 38 runs in 3 matches with a highest score of 31.
Although she had to miss the encounter against Bangladesh due to fever, she has not set the tournament on fire in the other matches as well. With the aggressive Shafali for company at the top of the order, she can afford to take her time to settle down and bat deep into the innings and mentor the young Shafali and Jemimah Rodrigues along the way. Her partnership with Shafali at the start of the innings would be crucial for India to put pressure on the Australian bowling attack who would be missing the services of Ellyse Perry and Tayla Vlaeminck.
#1 Harmanpreet Kaur
Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian captain, is one of the most destructive batters in the women's game. She has the ability to alter the course of the game in a matter of few overs with her aggressive hitting. But she has been in abysmal form at this World Cup, having scored just 26 runs in 4 innings at a meager average of 6.50.
It will be critical for India that she strikes form in this crucial encounter as she will have to shepherd the middle and lower order for India, which is bereft of any big hitters apart from the captain herself. The Indian lower order is known to crumble when put under pressure and Harmanpreet will have to ensure that she bats right to the end of the innings for the momentum to be maintained especially in a run chase situation. The Indian team would be hoping that their captain is able to strike the same form she had displayed in the 50-over World Cup semi-final against Australia where her unbeaten knock of 171 had knocked the stuffing out of the Australians.Published 06 Mar 2020, 14:00 IST