I clearly remember the emotions from the final of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in 2017, having come so close to winning. The match against England was played in a packed Lord’s stadium and to miss out on that chance is something that will rankle forever.
It has been an honour to have led India to two of the three ICC finals we have reached, going back to the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2005 in South Africa. We have had several memorable performances over this period but are missing that one huge win.
We have now been the beaten finalists in the most recent 50-over and 20-over World Cup finals and have learnt so much from those experiences that we will take into this World Cup in New Zealand.
We have shown that we are more than capable of winning the trophy, it is now just a case of doing it and the impact of doing so would be incredible. I can only imagine what its effect would be.
Not only would it mean so much for the players and our families, but it would make a real difference for all our fans back home in India, where there is already great anticipation for a Women’s IPL.
Our fans are some of the most passionate in the world and we know that they will be watching on. I’m sure if we did win, we would be able to hear them all the way from New Zealand.
To be recognised on the streets in my country is something I never expected when I appeared in my first World Cup in 2000, also in New Zealand, but that is now so common and shows how much the game has grown in India.
Jhulan Goswami was by my side in 2005 and has been an ever-present member of the Indian team in all those years since, she has amassed 240 wickets in ODIs, 60 more than anyone else and luckily shows no signs of slowing down. We both so badly want to win an ICC World title before we call it a day!
We have, of course, been joined by so many talented youngsters in recent years. There is huge talent in India and I am sure the next crop of players is already inspiring thousands and thousands of girls out there to pick up the bat or ball. When I was growing up, there was only the odd girl attending an academy but bunches of them are the norm nowadays.
Shafali Verma is surely one of the players being watched with great enthusiasm back home. She is one of the world’s rising stars and I am backing her to have more impressive performances for India throughout the tournament with guidance and support from the stylish Smriti Mandhana at the other end. Taniya Bhatia has been very reliable behind the stumps and Richa Ghosh is hot on her heels, meaning we have two wicket-keepers we can trust.
We all know what Harmanpreet Kaur can do on the world stage. Her 171 not out in the 2017 semi-final against Australia earned us a place in the final and her performances in last year’s Women’s Big Bash League show she is ready to do it again.
We are very fortunate to be heading into this tournament having played New Zealand, Australia and England in recent months.
The series in New Zealand has given us a chance to acclimatise, particularly to the seaming conditions we don’t often experience at home.
Against England, we won one of the three ODI matches and put up a good fight in the other two before beating Australia to end their run of 26 one-day wins.
Those results show what is possible if we come together as a team and believe in ourselves, and now, I am just excited to get out there and play.
- Mithali Raj is the Test and ODI captain of Indian women’s cricket team. (Column courtesy: ICC)