India Women will take on five-time T20 World Cup champions Australia in the final of the inaugural Commonwealth Games (CWG) T20 competition at Edgbaston on Sunday (August 7) evening.
India made the final by beating hosts England by four runs in a thrilling semi-final on Saturday (August 6) at the same venue.
The Meg Lanning-led Australian side punched their ticket to the summit clash by securing a five-wicket win over New Zealand in the other semi-final. The Southern Stars have won four of their last five T20Is against India, while one game was washed out. Australia even beat India earlier in the CWG, the Asian outfit's only loss in the tournament so far.
The final of the latest Women’s T20 World Cup also featured the two sides in 2020, but it wasn’t a happy outing for India as they suffered a heavy 85-run defeat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Can the Women in Blue turn the tide and script history by winning their first final of a multi-nation event? In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda hours before the final, former Indian women’s cricket captain Anjum Chopra spoke about India’s chances against the No. 1-ranked Australian team, Harmanpreet Kaur’s captaincy and what a CWG gold would mean for women’s cricket in India.
A prolific batter for India between 1995 and 2012, Chopra played 12 Tests, 127 ODIs and 18 T20Is, scoring 3,645 international runs.
Here are the excerpts:
Chopra: Not the halfway mark, but I was a little concerned about the way we bowled in the first four overs. Rather than the partnership between Amy Jones and Nat Sciver, I would say the kind of start that England got was more concerning.
Q: Three England batters (Alice Capsey, Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones) got run out. Do you think they crumbled under pressure?
Chopra: Capsey’s run out can’t even be called a mistake. It was weird. Apart from her, everyone else was patient on the ground. She was the only one who was running (laughs). That was probably the opportunity that arose for India. Had she continued batting the way she was alongside Danielle Wyatt, it would’ve been more concerning for India. But because Capsey got run out the way she did and then Sciver came in, it created pressure on England.
They were anyway a batter short as Heather Knight wasn’t playing. The dismissals of Wyatt and Capsey provided the opening for India. I wouldn’t say it was a case of hara-kiri as England women play a lot of international cricket.
Q: What is your assessment of Harmanpreet Kaur’s captaincy at the Commonwealth Games?
Chopra: She’s becoming better with every outing. She has now been given the Indian captaincy in all formats. I think this should’ve happened many years ago and I’ve been very vocal about it. She seems to have a sense of assurance in her captaincy, which is the hallmark of all good captains. When you play well, you have control over the team and earn the respect of every player.
It’s good to see the team’s current approach. Earlier, there was less aggression, but now every player has grown in their capacity over the past year-and-a-half. They know how they are progressing and I like this aggressive mindset. It's controlled aggression and Harman is allowing each individual to blossom in their own way.
Q: The odds are stacked against India as Australia lead the head-to-head record 17-6 in women’s T20Is. What do you think are India’s chances in today’s gold medal match?
Chopra: I don’t know the stats, but I do know Australia have had the upper hand over India. Look, they are the world champions. You can’t deny the fact that they are a very strong side. The way they chased down the target against us in the first game showed their strength.
Everyone understands that Australia are the strongest team in the world at the moment. That said, when you head into a contest, you don’t look at the opposition’s strengths. You look at their weaknesses. I’m sure the Indian team will be looking at Australia’s weaknesses and their own strengths.
In every CWG match, somebody or the other from the Indian camp has put their hand up. When you come up against a champion side like Australia, you need to bring out your A-game. I think India are well placed to upset Australia. If you ask me, I would say they can defeat the world champions. It’s a tournament final, so both teams will come out strong.
Q: India haven’t won a Women’s World Cup yet. What will a CWG gold mean for women’s cricket in India, especially in the year before the inaugural Women’s IPL?
Chopra: A CWG gold medal will only mean a CWG gold medal. Nothing more than that. Yes, it will give the Indian girls a huge fillip and bring a lot of joy to the country. Our athletes are doing well in the ongoing CWG and as we speak, we are competing in many more disciplines for gold medals.
We’re an Indian contingent here. We haven’t gone to Birmingham just as the Indian women’s cricket team. A gold medal will only add to the tally of gold medals that our athletes have won. A win in the final will attract a lot of positivity and attention for Indian women’s cricket. When you win, many good things follow.
Q: Most of the Indian cricketers have done well at the CWG so far. Is there a particular player who, according to you, can make a big difference in the final?
Chopra: Everyone has to contribute here. For me, it will be Harmanpreet Kaur who’ll be observed most keenly because she’s a seasoned campaigner. At the end of the day, it’s not just one person’s game.
When you’re up against a world champion team, you need to be good in all departments. A 171 kind of knock cannot happen every day. That innings blew Australia away in the 2017 World Cup semi-final. If that happens, that’s good. But usually you don’t prepare for that. You want everyone to contribute.
The good thing is India know what Australia’s strengths are and they played well in the first game. But it's in the past now. When you play a final, you have to repeat all the good things you have done and make sure that you play your best game that day.