2022 Women's ODI World Cup: After 2 Final Defeats, India Eyeing Redemption in NZ
2022 Women's ODI World Cup: India start their campaign on 6 March vs Pakistan.
India have been the losing finalists in the last two ICC women’s World Cups – in 2017 they lost the ODI World Cup final to England and then in 2020, they were defeated by Australia in the T20 World Cup final.
So, undoubtedly, redemption will be high on the agenda as Mithali Raj and her team of stars start their campaign this Sunday against Bismah Maroof’s Pakistan in the 2022 ODI World Cup that’s being played in New Zealand. Maroof herself is making a comeback to the Pakistan team after two years that she took off on maternity leave and is travelling for the World Cup with her seven-month-old daughter as part of the Pakistan contingent.
The tournament is being played one year after its initial start date, due to COVID-19, and features eight teams, with the opener on 4 March and the final scheduled one month later – on 3 April. The group stage will see all eight teams face off against each other with the best four progressing to the semi-finals.
The ICC’s special 'playing conditions' for this event allow for a side to play a match with just nine players, in case there’s an outbreak of COVID in the travelling party, with two female members of the support staff allowed to help as fielders.
Now the Indian team: Mithali Raj is the only Indian captain – male or female – to have guided their team to two ODI World Cup finals. And a testament to her service to Indian cricket is the fact that one of those finals was in 2005 and the second was 12 years later in 2017 when India lost a very close-fought game to England, by nine runs.
Five years have passed but those wounds are still fresh and an inspired Mithali is back for her sixth World Cup appearance. She also goes in as the highest-ranked Indian female cricketer in the ICC ODI rankings for batters – placed second and among bowlers, Jhulam Goswami is the highest-ranked Indian – at the fourth spot – and is another of the players who featured in the 2005 World Cup.
There were a few selection questions when the squad was announced in January with India electing to leave behind fast bowler Shikha Pandey, young Jemimah Rodrigues, and Punam Raut.
Those concerns may have escalated over the last month when the Indian team lost the five match ODI series against New Zealand, in New Zealand, 1-4 with the victory coming in the fifth fixture with Mithali, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur scoring half centuries. They are the big names India will be banking on in the batting department along with ODI World Cup debutant Shafali Verma who has scored two half centuries in the 11 ODIs since making her debut last June.
There’s also Richa Ghosh who smashed the fastest ODI half century by an Indian woman in the fourth ODI against New Zealand – off 26 deliveries.
Spinners Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad were the top two Indian wicket-takers in the New Zealand ODI series and will have senior stalwart Jhulan Goswami spearheading the bowling department. At 39, the pace star is still India’s leading wicket-taker, and since 2019 she’s picked 38 wickets in 24 ODIs.
Now to the matches: India open their campaign with the Pakistan game on Sunday. Mithali's team are fourth in the ODI rankings while Pakistan are eighth and have never made it to the semi-final stage.
Pakistan, in fact, only qualified for the World Cup due to their rankings after the qualifying tournament last year was cancelled midway due to COVID-19. The team in fact has played only 22 ODIs since 2019, losing 15 and winning only seven.
They have also never beaten India in one-day cricket, on all 10 occasions the two teams have met. The last time they met, in the 2017 World Cup, India bowled the neighbours out for 74 and won the match by 95 runs.
Pakistan though is already 'winning' on one front – for their support to new mother Bismah Maroof. The PCB has stood by their skipper and supported her decision in 2020 to go on an indefinite maternity leave. In fact, following Bismah's decision, the board added a maternity clause to their contract allowing women to go on 12 months of paid leave to give birth to their child. They also guaranteed a contract extension following the 12 months away from the game.
And seven months after giving birth to her daughter Fatima, Bismah is making her international comeback with the World Cup, where she has been handed her captaincy role back as well. In fact, she has travelled to New Zealand with her young daughter and the Pakistani captain has been provided a 'support person' by the PCB to help take care of her newborn while she leads her national team.
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