As India Women take the field on Thursday at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the ICC Women's T20 World Cup semi-final game against England, they will not only be looking to erase the memories of the 2017 ODI World Cup final at Lord's, but also overturn a new-found big-match fever among India's different sides ranging from the men's to under-19 and women's.
Since 2014, India have missed out in the knockout stages a whopping eight times. This includes the loss in the finals at the under-19 World Cup two months back in South Africa. Such has been the jinx that riding past the semis is in itself an arduous task.
List of games India lost in the ICC events since 2014:
- 2014 - World T20 - Lost in finals
- 2015 - World Cup - Lost in semi-finals
- 2016 - World T20 - Lost in semi-finals
- 2016 - U-19 World Cup - Lost in finals
- 2017 - Champions Trophy - Lost in finals
- 2017 - Women's ODI World Cup - Lost in finals
- 2019 - World Cup - Lost in semi-finals
- 2020 - U-19 World Cup - Lost in finals
The highlight here is that they have one of the toughest opponents in the women's game for the semi-finals. India Women have won only four of their 19 T20Is against the England Women's side in their history. They have lost five of their last six matches against them, but what will motivate them is the fact that they edged this very England side to the finals of the recent tri-series in Australia before the World Cup.
Both sides enter the semi-finals in good form. While India Women won all of their league games, England Women won all but one and are primed to beat India and reach the finals. India have relied on their potent spin attack and blistering starts from Shafali Verma to hide their soft batting belly and less-than-convincing pace attack.
Toppling England Women will mean sticking to a template that worked for them in the tri-series. Then, despite racking up a good score, England found themselves under pressure as India Women's middle-order, led by skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, clicked in sync.
It is this that will haunt India ahead of the big semi-finals. The middle-order has been a huge area of concern for them with Harmanpreet having a wretched tournament with the bat. Veda Krishnamurthy stepped up in the game against Bangladesh, and Deepti Sharma did her bit against Australia but the big absence of runs from Kaur will worry India, particularly since England have the attack to dismiss the lesser middle-order batters.
To fight England, India Women will need to step up with their fast bowling, middle-order batting and then hope that their existing strengths - the top-order and the spinners - have a good field day. It's hoping too many things fall into place, but to break the knockout jinx, that's exactly what this team would need.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / William West