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High-flying India aim to dismantle scratchy West Indies

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Last updated on 14 Feb 2023 | 03:10 PM
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High-flying India aim to dismantle scratchy West Indies

The Women in Blue will be keen to continue their dominance of seven successive wins against the Windies and inch closer to a semi-final spot

It has been a whirlwind week for all the fans of women's cricket across the globe and sport in general as the auction of the inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League is finally done and dusted amid growing fanfare. 

In the post-match press conference after New Zealand's loss to South Africa, Sophie Devine was visibly upset about the timing of the windfall day in the midst of the T20 World Cup in South Africa. 

"I think you're living under a rock if you don't think it was a distraction, it was bizarre. But, the bigger picture stuff, it's incredible for women's sport and women's cricket to see some of the money that was thrown around," she said. 

While the auction was happening at the Jio Convention Centre in Mumbai, miles away from South Africa, it was the elephant in the room for one of the most-awaited tournaments in the women's cricket calendar - The T20 World Cup. 

And after seven hours of exhilarating process filled with ebbs and flow, we finally have our five teams for the inaugural edition of the extravaganza. 

Well, which means the focus can finally be shifted to the T20 World Cup, where ten teams are fighting it out for the coveted trophy. 

A day before the auction, the Women in Blue were up against arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening fixture and recorded a commanding seven-wicket win at the same venue. 

While they showcased batting prowess to edge past their opponents, the same cannot be said about the team up next in their campaign: the mighty Windies. Well, who have unfortunately not been mighty or a force to reckon with in recent times, especially after the shock retirement of Deandra Dottin

There ain't any doubt that the young side is in a transition phase, and it was pretty evident in their seven-wicket defeat to England as they crumbled under the pressure of posting a formidable first innings total. 

And they would be keen to make amends against a solid Indian side who enjoys a fairly good run against them as they have won 12 out of their 20 games, including the last seven successive occasions. 

The last time the Women in Blue lost to West Indies in the shortest format was back in 2016, and after almost six years and numerous games, they will be aiming to pile misery on the Windies outfit. 

However, dare I say, it will not be possible because they boast of some high-quality players in their ranks, and the onus will rely heavily on them as they look to UPSET, one of the favourites. 

But before that, here are some of the significant reasons and tactical decisions that could impact the outcome of the game. 

Things to watch out for

One of the major things to watch out for as far as the Indian fans are concerned is the return of Smriti Mandhana. The southpaw injured her finger ahead of India's opening game against Pakistan and was ruled out of the clash.

However, the Indian skipper did mention at the toss that her deputy is recovering well and should be fine before the clash against the West Indies. 

Another surprising call that the Women in Blue made in the first clash was not including Devika Vaidya in the playing XI. The all-rounder has done well since returning to the side after a five-year hiatus in the home series against Australia. 

With the inclusion of Vaidya, India have another bowling option, as the 25-year-old is a handy leg spinner along with her abilities with the bat that helped India in the series against the defending champions.

While India's batting look settled, barring the injuries, their opposition have plenty to ponder since the retirement of Deandra Dottin. They do have the resources of Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor at the top. 

However, their former skipper is returning from a long injury lay-off and looked rusty in their first outing against England and is expected to take some time in the powerplay to settle down, which led to their downfall. 

Pitch and conditions

The wicket at the Newlands stadium in Cape Town will be very similar to the one dished out for India's game against Pakistan. The wicket will assist the seamer early on in the innings, and as the game progresses, it will get better for batting. 

While India chased down 150 runs with an over to spare, it reflects the fact that the surface did not change one bit, and you will always get value for your shots. 

Well, ask Jemimah Rodrigues about it.

Tactical Nous

One of the mainstays in the batting unit of the Windies, Matthews will be the key wicket for the Indian side. While the right-handed batter is solid against pacers, India could opt to use their left-arm spinners or even leg spinner against her. 

In T20Is since the 2020 World Cup, Matthews averages 10 and 19.3 against leg spinners and left-arm tweakers respectively, and also strikes under 75 against the two bowling types. 

Afy Fletcher can be the trump card for the West Indies side in the coming game. With the top order of the Indian side filled with right-handed batters, the leg spinner will be crucial to the chances of the Caribbean side. 

Team Combination

All eyes will be on Mandhana and her fitness heading into this clash. If the southpaw is fit, she will replace Yastika Bhatia and India should also try and slot in Devika Vaidya in place of Harleen Deol to lend more balance to the side. 

Predicted India XI: Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain), Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana/Yastika Bhatia, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Pooja Vastrakar, Renuka Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav.

Despite losing to England in a dismal fashion, West Indies could continue to bank on the same players to deliver in this must-win encounter. 

Predicted West Indies XI:  Hayley Matthews (Captain), Shemaine Campbelle, Chedean Nation, Rashada Williams (wk), Stafanie Taylor, Shabika Gajnabi, Zaida James, Chinelle Henry, Afy Fletcher, Shekera Selman, Shamilia Connell.

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