Former skipper Mithali Raj feels India's chances of winning the Women's T20 World Cup will depend largely on the top order's form
Former skipper Mithali Raj feels India's chances of winning the Women's T20 World Cup will depend largely on the top order's form.
The legendary batter added that the Indian bowlers will have to show a marked improvement in testing conditions at the marquee event beginning on Friday in South Africa.
"India's chances will be largely dependent on the top order. Smriti Mandhana is playing well and is a match winner," Mithali wrote in her column for the ICC.
"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."
The Indian team, which takes on Pakistan in their tournament opener on February 12 in Cape Town, have been playing in South Africa.
The Indian team, which recently finished runners up in a Tri series against hosts South Africa and West Indies, will be fielding a relatively inexperienced pace unit barring veteran Shikha Pandey.
"The bowling will be tested and that is where we need to see an improvement," Mithali added.
The 40-year-old hopes the U19 World Cup-winning duo of Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh make use of the knowledge that they have gained while playing the age group tournament on these conditions.
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"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.
"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."
Australia favourites to win
Mithali opined defending champions Australia's excellent batting department make them favourites to win the event for an unprecedented sixth time.
"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.
However, Mithali feels India have a knack of producing their best against Australia.
"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.
"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."
The inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) will be played this year with the auction slated to be held on February 13 in Mumbai.
Mithali, who made significant contributions in popularising the women's game during her 23-year long glorious career, feels franchise cricket will not only help the players become financially secure but also enable them to invest in their game.
"What is great at this moment is that the women's game is constantly evolving. Where 140 used to be a par score in a T20, now you can see 160-180 plus chased down, and so many matches go down to the wire.
"That change has come down to the increase of leagues all over the world, with the WBBL in Australia, the Super League in England and of course the Women's Premier League in India which is going to start this year.
"Those platforms not only give local players the chance to interact with overseas stars, but they also offer better financial stability which allows them to invest in their own games, hiring personal coaches or strength and conditioning coaches.
While Mithali, who retired last year, will not be playing in the league, she has been roped in as a mentor and advisor by Gujarat Giants.
"I am not surprised at all that we have got to this point, the Women's Premier League in India is a huge development.
"While I will not be playing, I will be fortunate enough to serve as a mentor and advisor for the Gujarat Giants.
"There is no disappointment about the fact that I missed out on playing in it, my journey as a cricketer was different and I was able to play my part in the evolution of the sport.
She hopes the league will help in player development.
"I am very happy to see women's cricket get to where it is and excited to be part of the eco-system."
"I am really hoping that the WPL will also help with player development. We have seen at the Under-19 World Cup how much young talent there is around the world and how players are already benefiting from the number of televised matches and the chance to play alongside big names in domestic cricket."
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