The 2022 edition of the Women’s World Cup is scheduled to begin on 4th March 2022. Being held in New Zealand for the third time, the marquee event in the women’s calendar will consist of 31 matches culminating in the finals on April 3rd at Christchurch.
There are a total of 8 teams participating in the tournament. Australia, England, South Africa and India obtained a direct entry to the tournament alongwith the host New Zealand. With the Qualifier for the tournament canceled mid-way last year, the final 3 spots were determined through the ODI rankings at the end of the league, which meant that Bangladesh, Pakistan and West Indies made the cut.
The 8 teams will be playing each other once in a round-robin format and the top four teams will advance to the knockouts.
India had a golden run in the last World Cup in England in 2017, culminating in only their second appearance in the finals, which they lost to hosts England. Since then, India have had mixed returns and have been deflated by off-field controversies, most notably the spat between the current ODI captain Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar during the 2018 World T20. However, they had an excellent 2018 and 2019 in the ODI circuit, winning against South Africa both at home and in South Africa, winning against New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka while touring and beating England in two separate series at home. Their only loss in that period came against Australia at home. However, the pandemic took a toll, with India losing since they resumed playing in 2021. They lost to South Africa at home before losing to England, Australia and New Zealand while touring. Since 2021, they have played 16 games, winning only 4 of them. The following table provides an analysis since the last World Cup.
|Played||Won||Lost||Tied/No Result||Win %|
India have announced an 18-member squad for the tournament:
Main Squad: Mithali Raj (captain), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Taniya Bhatia, Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad
Reserve Players: S Meghana, Ekta Bisht, Simran Bahadur
A number of questionable selections have been made by the team management. Owing to the lack of form, top players like Jemimah Rodrigues, Punam Raut and Shikha Pandey have been left out of the squad, which has resulted in some negative reactions.
- Capable Batting Unit:
The Indian batting line-up looks quite strong on paper. Smriti Mandhana, an excellent opener, is known to be versatile in approach. She can play the role of an aggressor and can also consolidate at the top and build long innings. Shafali Verma will definitely play the role of an aggressor, punishing bad balls and ensuring that the team has a good batting powerplay. While she has proved her value in T20Is, she is yet to hit the strides in the longer format. Mithali Raj, the captain, is known to hold one end together and play out long innings as has been evidenced by her track record. Scoring 3 half-centuries in the recent games against New Zealand, she has shown that she can evolve, scoring the runs at a greater pace than in the past. Yastika Bhatia holds a lot of promise. Harmanpreet Kaur is invaluable in the middle-order, playing a crucial role of propping up the innings for a late assault, with the experienced Deepti Sharma and wicket-keeper Richa Ghosh. They have the batting firepower that can propel them to the 270s.
- Experienced Core Group:
The Indian side comprises of many players who are loaded with experience. Mithali Raj has featured in 225 ODIs, the most appearances in Women’s ODIs and has also scored the most runs in the format. Jhulan Goswami, who is expected to lead the bowling attack, has also played close to 200 games. Harmanpreet Kaur has featured in 111 ODIs. Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Smriti Mandhana have all played over 50 ODIs. Following is the record of these players:
- Lack of Finishers:
As has been the case in the past, the Indian batting line-up lacks proven finishers in their ranks which has cost them quite badly in ODI matches. Thus, in spite of a good foundation built by the top-order, they have failed to capitalize and convert the 260-270s into 300s as the other teams have managed to do. Harmanpreet Kaur is a classic finisher who has underperformed. Deepti Sharma cannot bat with aggression for a sustained period to really cause any panic while Richa Ghosh, though talented, is not too experienced to be counted on for this role. In their recent games against New Zealand, India reached the 270s but it was not enough to challenge the hosts. A few runs extra from the finishers could have been enough.
- Lack of Penetration in Bowling Attack:
Another problem with the Indian team is the lack of penetration in the bowling unit. Shikha Pandey was very threatening in the World T20 in Australia but have not been selected for the World Cup. Jhulan Goswami is likely to open the bowling with Meghna Singh and will be supported by Pooja Vastrakar and Renuka Singh. Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Sneh Rana will operate as spinners in the attack along with all-rounder Deepti Sharma. Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Sneh Rana, and Pooja Vastrakar are new in the Indian setup and will take their time to develop as bowlers. There is a lack of quality bowlers at the death-overs which could cost them in this World Cup.
- Poor Fielding:
India had improved as a fielding side over the years. However, with the absence of game time due to the pandemic, the fielding standards have gone down drastically. There have been many cases of fielding lapses conceding extra runs coupled with dropped catches and missed run-outs at crucial junctures, which have contributed to the final outcome. India will have to ensure that their fielding remains top-notch, especially against the stronger teams, if they are to reach the knockouts stage.
- Talented Youngsters can be the X-Factor:
Considering the quality of the youngsters in the side, it may not be a surprise that the new talent could have a bearing on India’s performance in the World Cup. Yastika Bhatia has been excellent against Australia and is almost a like-for-like replacement of the out-of-form Jemimah Rodrigues. She already has a half-century in a short career spanning just 7 games and has got starts consistently. Sneh Rana was excellent in England, where she scored an unbeaten 80 and helped India salvage a draw while being among the wickets while bowling. Her batting prowess also resulted in Indi’s only ODI win of the tour. Striking at 105 runs per 100 balls, Richa Ghosh is good wicket-keeping option, playing the role of a finisher with her dashing strokes. Meghna Singh was also very impressive in Australia.
- Thriving on Spin-friendly Conditions:
The Asian teams traditionally possess good spinners, which is especially true for India. Considering that some teams are weak against spin, the Indian bowling attack should perform well on used wickets in the latter half of the competition. Bowlers like Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sneh Rana, Poonam Yadav and Deepti Sharma can dry up the runs from one end and pressurize the batters to take chances which can lead to some important wickets.
- Harmanpreet Kaur’s Poor Form:
Harmanpreet Kaur played a very important role in the last World Cup with a blistering 171* against Australia in the semis. However, since the tournament, her returns have been quite modest. She has scored only 3 half-centuries in 33 ODIs since then while taking only 8 wickets. Her bowling also, in general, has been quite wayward and she has been prone to leaking runs. She has faced a severe lack of form over that period, inviting criticism and calls of being dropped from the side. However, she made her presence felt with her most recent knock of 63 off 66 balls in the last ODI before the World Cup. The most important question is – whether it is just another one-off innings or whether the resurgence of form will be sustained throughout the tournament.
We can only find out on March 6th when India opens their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan in Mount Maunganui.