Will India win her first ever Women’s World Cup tonight?

By Kersi Meher-Homji

As India takes on England for the World Cup today at Lord’s in London, let me give a short history of the global event. How many know that the first women’s World Cup was played in 1973, two years before the first men’s World Cup?

England has won the women’s World Cup three times including the inaugural one in 1973 and subsequently in 1993 and 2009. Australia has won it six times in 1978, 1982, 1988, 1997, 2005 and 2013. New Zealand won it once in 2000.

India has yet to lift the Cup. Their best effort was in 2005 in South Africa when they entered the final but lost to Australia by 98 runs.

Will 2017 be India’s year with the Harmanpreet hurricane blowing in the England camp?  She has benefited from playing the women’s Big Bash League last season in Australia, scoring 296 runs at 59.2.

If the semi-finals between England – South Africa and between India ”“ Australia are indications, tonight’s final between England and India will be a thriller.

The Australia v. India semi produced exhilarating batting, especially by Harmanpreet Kaur for India and Alex Blackwell for Australia. Between the two they smashed 10 sixes.

Harmanpreet’s innings will be cherished for decades. It reminded me of spectacular batting displays by Virender Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist and Yuvraj Singh when she hit a hurricane 171 not out off 115 balls at Derby, England on Thursday.

It was sensational as she belted 20 fours and seven sixes, her unbeaten 171 coming off 115 balls; her last 103 off only 40 balls at an amazing strike rate of 257.50.

Ebony-Jewel Rainfor-Brent ”“ the former England cricketer ”“ opined, “Harmanpreet’s innings was the best ever in a women’s one-day international.”

Jarrod Kimber’s headline was even more eye catching: “Australia eaten by the Harmanpreet monster”!

India defeated the reigning champion of 2013, Australia, by 36 runs despite a do-or-die innings by Australia’s veteran Blackwell (90 runs off 56 balls) adding 76 valiant runs for the last wicket.

According to Harmanpreet’s coach Yaduvinder Singh, playing with boys in the Giyan Jyoti Cricket Academy in Punjab has made her a stronger player.

India’s male cricketers have been become cheerleaders of Mithali Raj’s finalist. Every Harmanpreet six or Mithali’s record has been acknowledged by Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

Even the Australians on the street have been talking of India’s heroics in the WWC.

According to a report in  CricInfo, “Every move of theirs – be it reading a book, grooving to the DJ beats in the dugout, their vivacious celebration, even Harmanpreet’s fury at her young colleague, has attracted unprecedented attention. The BCCI, which is yet to present central contracts six months after it expired, has announced a cash reward of INR 50 lakh for every member of the squad. Having exceeded expectations, India now have a shot at cricket’s biggest prize for the first time in 12 years, in front of what is expected to be a packed house at Lord’s.”

It is difficult to predict the winner as both teams have players in tremendous form.

In batting:  Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor for England; skipper Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Punam Raut for India.

In bowling:  slow left arm bowlers Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Ekta Bisht for India and Katherine Brunt for England.

In teenager Deepti Sharma India has a promising all-rounder.

India has the psychological advantage of beating England on 24th  June in this WC on 24th  June by 35 runs.

I back India to win her first women’s World Cup, encouraged by drums played by men and women spectators dressed in the Indian tricolour.


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