Comparisons are inevitable when the talking point is cricket. Yes, men do have an upper hand when it comes to publicity, popularity or physicality. In terms of technique, the women are on par with them. But when it comes to being World Cup hosts, the women somehow have had an advantage.
Men have suffered from the curse of being hosts until India broke that jinx in 2011. On the contrary, the eves have been successful four out of nine times. While Australia emerged champions the last two times India played hosts (1978 & 1977), the Women in Blue hope to get third time lucky.
Mithali Raj & Co will open their campaign against a spirited West Indies side at the Brabourne Stadium on Thursday. The Indian outfit has been bolstered by the comeback of wicketkeeper Karuna Jain and batswoman Thirush Kamini. Openers Poonam Raut and Kamini have been in good nick. On paper, India look a complete side, with Mithali and her deputy Harmanpreet Kaur shoring up the batting and veteran Jhulan Goswami spearheading the attack.
“Opening was a concern, but Thirush Kamini is back and the openers are looking good this time. They’ve done very well in the warm-up games and that bodes well. The main advantage will be the conditions. With flat tracks being laid out, we can expect a lot of high-scoring games. Pressure is always there. The only solution is to perform. If we perform, we will win,” said Mithali.
India lost a bilateral series to West Indies last year, but Mithali is confident of making amends this time around. “They’ve come a long way in the last couple of years and have some hard-hitters in the team that we need to be careful of. But we are in good form and have planned well to face them,” she added.
The Caribbeans have five spinners and should look to cash in on the turning tracks. It will be a battle of Windies’ aggression versus India’s elegance. West Indies are well prepared and pepped up after an extra day’s rest, but their captain Merissa Aguilleira feels the hosts have the ability to be crowned champions. “Mithali and Goswami have very good leadership qualities. They have the ability to win this World Cup, but as I said, you can’t underestimate the other teams,” said Auilleira.
Meanwhile, Mithali is hoping to get ample support from the locals. “Curiosity will pull people to watch us play. They will like the effort we put in,” she said.