His­tory awaits In­dia in Women’s World Cup fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: In­dia have the chance to al­ter the course of cricket his­tory when they face hosts England in the Women’s World Cup fi­nal at Lord’s to­day. Since the tour­na­ment’s in­cep­tion in 1973 — two years be­fore the men’s World Cup started - it has been dom­i­nated by England and Aus­tralia, with New Zealand, in 2000, the only other coun­try to have won the event.

The fi­nal sees this year’s edi­tion come full cir­cle, with In­dia hav­ing up­set the form book to beat England by 35 runs in the tour­na­ment opener in Derby on June 24. “It isn’t go­ing to be easy for England,” promised In­dia cap­tain Mithali Raj af­ter her side’s stun­ning semi-fi­nal win over six-times cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia in Derby on Thurs­day.

A 36-run vic­tory over the ti­tle-hold­ers was built on Har­man­preet Kaur’s stun­ning 171 not out. An in­nings full of cor­rect yet pow­er­ful shots ought to have ban­ished any re­main­ing stereo­types about ‘de­mure’ women’s cricket in gen­eral and the In­dia team in par­tic­u­lar. Cer­tainly there was noth­ing ‘la­dy­like’ about the fiercely com­pet­i­tive Kaur’s an­gry re­ac­tion to­wards bat­ting part­ner Deepti Sharma af­ter al­most be­ing run out on 98.

For Raj and In­dia pace bowler Jhu­lan Goswami, the lead­ing run-scorer and wicket-taker in women’s one-day in­ter­na­tional his­tory re­spec­tively, this could be the last chance the two 34-year-olds have to win the World Cup. But the sig­nif­i­cance of the day goes far be­yond what it means to their cricket ca­reers.

In­dia’s win in the 1983 men’s World Cup fi­nal at Lord’s turned the coun­try on to lim­ited overs cricket and led the world’s sec­ond-most pop­u­lous na­tion to be­come the sport’s fi­nan­cial pow­er­house. An In­dia win to­day could have equally far-reach­ing con­se­quences, as Raj ac­knowl­edged.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for the In­dian team to make it big in In­dia,” Raj, ap­pear­ing in her sec­ond World Cup fi­nal 12 years af­ter her first, told ESPNCricinfo. “Ev­ery­body will be glued to the television to­day,” she added while re­call­ing how In­dia’s 98-run de­feat by Aus­tralia in the 2005 fi­nal at Cen­tu­rion, South Africa, was not even broad­cast.

“If we can pull it off, there will be noth­ing like it. It will help the fu­ture of women’s cricket.” One pleas­ing as­pect for In­dia of this World Cup is that they have not been over-re­liant on Raj and Goswami, who nev­er­the­less pro­duced the de­liv­ery of the tour­na­ment to bowl Aus­tralia cap­tain Meg Lan­ning for nought in the semi-fi­nal. The likes of Sm­riti Mand­hana, Pu­nam Raut and Sharma have also stepped up when needed. England, since their open­ing de­feat by In­dia, have had the po­ten­tially use­ful ex­pe­ri­ence of win­ning two close games, de­feat­ing Aus­tralia by three runs in pool play be­fore see­ing off South Africa by just two wick­ets in a semi-fi­nal where they stum­bled chas­ing a mod­est tar­get of 219 in Bris­tol on Tues­day.

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