It’s all set. Just a few hours to go before the MCG- the Mecca of the cricket world, in Australia- will be a witness to the greatest women’s contest in the modern century, as many put it. The final of the T20 World Cup 2020 is an event that is expected to bring in a sell-out crowd.
Also, in the course of the next few hours, we shall see whether the Australian Women emerge as the only team ever to lift the T20 World Cup on 5 separate occasions. If not, an outcome that India will accept with both hands shall also mean Harmanpreet’s country lifting the trophy for the very first time.
Isn’t it? For starters, even before the Proteas Women table-topped on their way to reach the big semis, they lost out a great chance to meet the West Indies women (led by Stafanie Taylor) in the Group clash. Why? The game was washed out.
Not that things changed drastically in that washed out occurrence’s aftermath. Not a single delivery was bowled in the much-anticipated and vastly talked-about India versus England semi-final clash.
We were robbed off from seeing a very potent clash where the likes of Katherine Brunt would’ve contested against Shikha Pandey, where Nat Sciver may have found her match in Deepti Sharma, where Jemimah Rodrigues would’ve loved to score more runs than Heather Knight. And we would’ve all loved to see what the likes of Smriti Mandhana and Danielle Wyatt would’ve garnered with the bat.
Nonetheless, what’s gone is gone, but what a damp squib- no?
But is that all? Could there be something else in there too which, believe it or not, the Indian cricket fan- who’s as stunned as he’s delighted seeing India participating in their first-ever T20 WC final clash- would want?
Would one not want the team to bank so heavily on the blazing and unputdownable Shafali Verma?
At 16, Shafali Verma, who stood out in the cuddly adorable snap with her idol Sachin Tendulkar has already done what many of the world’s best bowlers around her- not to forget Megan Schutt, Sasikala Siriwardene, Sophie Devine, Leigh Kasperek- and these are just some of them- wouldn’t have expected.
Incidentally, that’s exactly what her fans and her doting Indian team would have wanted from her: scoring lots of runs and with quintessential power and fury.
Thus far, the least that the young gun from India has managed and that too in her maiden T20 World Cup appearance is the score of 29. That too came off just 15 balls, against Australia- this is a side comprising of and led by a legend. And what’s more? At a strike rate of 193.
Since firing her opening salvo, in a contest where Smriti Mandhana- far more experienced and unquestionably exciting departed for just 10- Shafali Verma has gone on to strike 39 against Bangladesh, 46 against Devine’s White Ferns, and 47 against Chamari Athapaththu’s Sri Lanka.
This sensational run from the up top from a heavily inexperienced batter, mind you, has been the key headlining material from India’s batting department.
It’s a batting line up comprising of tall talents which, one would be silly to underscore the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, and the very gifted Jemimah Rodrigues excite as much as they draw headlines.
Although, the latter has happened much largely thanks to the big 3 of the Indian line-up being quiet and seeming rather banal in this mega competition.
Yet, that said, make no mistake. Jemimah Rodrigues’s form has been a far cry from the rather vapid outings of a Mandhana and Harmanpreet.
One remembers the mid-inning gems by Jemimah- the 26 versus Australia and the 34 against Bangladesh dragging India out of the mess the team found themselves in post-Shafali’s fireworks.
But what about Harmanpreet- who’s thus far made 26 runs in all and Smriti who’s compiled 38 runs from 3 games?
Surely, any suggestions that these key batters, a world-class pair undoubtedly need several games to bounce back to attention would be needlessly overstating it.
But given the fact that all we have in front of us is 1 big game and nothing else, hence one last big chance to seize it all makes it all the more important for India’s premier batters to bounce back, thereby increasing the team’s chances of lifting the coveted title.
Surely, the fearless Shafali Verma will clear the ropes if all goes well and shall continue making the effort in her own unique style; one that cannot be found in coaching manuals, and truthfully speaking, one that cannot be imitated.
But what if Shafali fails to fire? Does India have a Plan-B ready? It’s high time the main batswomen fired up the big runs.