Indian women favourites against Pakistan in World T20 (Preview)

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) In-form Indian women will look to registering their second win in as many matches when they face Pakistan in a World Twenty20 match at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Saturday.

Unlike their male counterparts, there isn’t as much history between Indian and Pakistan women and that’s why it hasn’t created the hype and hoopla that is associated with the men’s game.

Starting from 2005, they have played only 14 limited-over matches against each other, with India prevailing on 13 occasions. Their next clash, a Group B encounter, could be the most high-stakes one yet, but the hosts will be the heavy favourites.

The last time the two teams played in India was during the ICC Women’s World Cup 2013, in the seventh-place play-off game in Cuttack. Mithali Raj stole the show with a match-winning unbeaten 103, but admitted that the team had aimed to finish much higher than it did.

Three years later, a lot has changed. India tasted victory in England and Australia, and a core has emerged around the veteran duo of Raj and Jhulan Goswami. Harmanpreet Kaur has grown in stature, Smriti Mandhana has been a stunning addition to the top order, Veda Krishnamurthy has rediscovered her game, and Poonam Yadav, Anuja Patil, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Ekta Bisht have strengthened the spin department.

The blend of youth and experience has made India one of the teams to watch out for in the ongoing tournament.

The 72-run victory over Bangladesh in the opening game in Bangalore was an almost perfect show. The confidence of the top order reflected in the manner in which they fired in unison to give the bowlers a much-needed cushion.

An encore against Pakistan will put India in a commanding position in the group, but it is easier said than done on a pitch that has historically assisted the slower bowlers.

Pakistan lost to the West Indies by four runs in their first game in Chennai, but the spinners shook up the opposition. Led by the left-arm spin twins of Anam Amin and Sadia Yousuf, they restricted West Indies to 103 for 8.

Pakistan’s chase received a big blow when Javeria Khan fractured her finger in the first over and was ruled out of the competition. Javeria has been a permanent fixture in the team since her debut in 2008, and her absence puts the onus on the likes of Sidra Ameen, Bismah Maroof and Sana Mir, the captain, to add more punch to the team’s batting in the remaining games.

Even if it has not made much of a splash in world events, Pakistan’s style of play has always been impressive because the side’s nucleus has remained the same for many years now.

The team’s favourite memory against India came in the 2012 edition of the competition in Sri Lanka, when Nida Dar and Maroof picked up five wickets between them while defending 98 to eke out a famous one-run win.

On Saturday, while India will look to ensuring that they take a big step in progressing to the knock-outs, their neighbours will look to pull things back.

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