Former Indian cricketer Mithali Raj. Image Credit: PTI

Cape Town: Legendary India batter Mithali Raj believes the chances of winning the Women’s T20 World Cup for the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side will be largely dependent on the form of the top order.

“India’s chances will be largely dependent on the top order. Smriti Mandhana is playing well and is a match winner. Harmanpreet Kaur has looked in good form too but we have to beat Australia and England you need others batters to come to the party,” wrote Mithali in her column for the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Sunday.

India will open their Group B campaign in the Women’s T20 World Cup against arch-rivals Pakistan on February 12 at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town. Apart from Pakistan, they will also face 2009 champions England, 2016 winners West Indies, and Ireland in the group stage of the competition.

Good run

Mithali also felt that youngsters Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh, who were a member of the winning Indian team in U19 Women’s T20 World Cup, should come good having played the tournament in South African conditions and that the bowlers will have to step up to the occasion.

“I hope Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh also have a good run at the World Cup considering they have gained so much experience of the conditions in South Africa. The bowling will be tested and that is where we need to see an improvement. I am excited about some of the young players coming through and there is definitely some talent in the Under-19s team which I had the chance to see play at the inaugural ICC Under-19s Women’s T20 World Cup.”

Mithali opined that defending champions Australia, led by Meg Lanning, are hot favourites to complete a hat-trick of Women’s T20 World Cup titles. But she also pointed out that India also has a habit of bringing out their best when facing Australia.

“Going into the tournament in South Africa, I think everyone would agree that Australia are the favourites, and deservedly so. I am expecting, tight, competitive matches. They are so difficult to beat because they bat deep and have an excellent batting line-up.”

“There are not many teams who can rival them in terms of big hitters, and the fact they have numerous players who can play a similar role means that if one fails, others can step in. We saw recently that when they toured India although that was a very competitive series but when it came down to it, more often than not, it was Australia who came out on top.”

“Having said that, while Australia are definitely favourites, we have seen India and England play some of their best cricket in the knockout stages of tournaments so I would not write them off. India also have the knack of bringing their best against Australia.”

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Harmanpreet Kaur will lead India at the T20 World Cup.

Mithali signed off by saying that mental preparation holds the key for succeeding in Women’s T20 World Cup and that batters negotiating bounce apart from bowlers will thrive in South African conditions.

“The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 will get underway soon and while most of the preparation has already been done, the challenge will be to ensure the players are ready mentally.”

“For an event like this, you have to do so much work on the mental side. It is so important to be in a very good mental space. The clearer and more composed you are, the more natural your performances will be and your cricket will start to flow.”

“The conditions in South Africa will make life easier for those batters who can negotiate bounce. If you can deal with the bounce, there are runs to be had square of the wicket, and the cricket can be very pleasing to the eye.”

Clean footwork

“The seamers should thrive as well, even if it might be a bit trickier for the wrist-spinners in particular but if you give it a tweak you will get purchase off the wicket. I was lucky enough to play in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2005 when India got all the way to the final.”

“I really enjoyed playing on those tracks where you are rewarded for your clean footwork. You can play through the line as well. It will be a little strange not being out there but I will be analysing the game as if I am still in the middle. I can’t help it but I still watch the game as player, someone who is trying to read the game and think about what to do in a given situation.”