Mithali Raj will be concerned about the performance of her top order in the lead up to the game against West Indies. © ICC/Getty Images

Mithali Raj will be concerned about the performance of her top order in the lead up to the game against West Indies. © ICC/Getty Images

India Women not only have to beat West Indies Women in their last Group B game of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 at PCA IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali on Sunday (March 27), but then wait for England Women to get better of Pakistan Women in Chennai and hope to sneak into the semifinals on a better net run-rate. For West Indies, the equation is somewhat similar: Beat India, and then hope England win. But, if Pakistan win, then three teams could be tied on six points each, separated only by net run-rate.

Stafanie Taylor, the West Indies captain, credited the inaugural edition of the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia for the world event being so open. “This tournament has been fun,” said Taylor. “We played with good players in the Big Bash League and got to know the players. It (has) opened up the game in this tournament and made things really balanced.”

No matter how things pan out for the two teams in Mohali, the larger significance of the day in the context of Indian cricket is not lost on anyone. It is for the first time that MS Dhoni’s boys, who take on Australia later in the evening in a must-win game, and Mithali Raj’s girls would be part of a double-header at home. The organisers have taken steps to ensure that the media contingent arrives at the venue before the women’s game in the afternoon, and the crowd too will be there in good numbers. How the day pans out could open a new window of opportunity for women’s cricket in India like the 2007 World T20 win did for the men’s team.

The larger issues were hardly on the mind of the Indian players as they went about their practice session under the watchful eyes of Purnima Rau, the coach. India have had better of West Indies quite a few times in T20Is, but things would be very tough in a pressure game.

India’s top order has struggled on slow pitches, and the spinners have hardly got any runs to defend. It is anybody’s guess how different the points table would have looked had India been on the right side of the games against Pakistan (2-run loss by Duckworth-Lewis method) and England (two-wicket defeat).

“You can’t do much with the rain interruptions, but we could have done better in a few areas against England. We will try to not repeat those mistakes,” said Raj the day before the game. “The girls realise every match is very important. We have done well in patches, but need to be more consistent in crunch situations. We have had some slip-ups, but have another opportunity to make do with. It’s important for us to regroup and well tomorrow as a unit.”

West Indies, one of the form teams coming into the competition, are hurting after their one-wicket loss off the last ball against England in Dharamsala. The photo of a teary-eyed Taylor went viral, and she admitted that the team got a bit carried away by the situation.

“We kind of pulled things back after England’s good start and that is where most of us got emotional. It was almost there for the taking,” she said, even while revealing that the manner of West Indies’ win over South Africa in the men’s tournament has boosted the unit’s confidence. “It’s actually hard when you look back at it, but it’s already done. You cannot change anything, but look at the positives from the last game and implement them. The vibe in the team is good and we could bounce back.”

Taylor herself is in good touch, being only one of the two batters in the competition with 100 or more runs. But lack of support from the rest has put West Indies in their current situation. Their bowling, meanwhile, has been sensational, as they defended 104 against Pakistan, and almost kept England below 108.

With the pitch, which will also be used for the men’s match, expected to be good for batting, West Indies would hope their batters have fun in the middle and the bowlers keep exploiting India’s weaknesses.

Teams (from)
India Women: Mithali Raj (capt), Thirush Kamini, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Niranjana Nagarajan, Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Anuja Patil, Deepti Sharma, VR Vanitha, Sushma Verma (wk), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav.

West Indies Women: Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shakera Selman, Merissa Aguilleira, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Stacy-Ann King, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Hayley Matthews, Anisa Mohammed, Shaquana Quintyne, Tremayne Smartt.