The year 2022 presents a golden opportunity to the Mithali Raj-led Indian women’s cricket team to leave behind the narrative of ‘yet so close yet so far’ and script a memorable and historic tale of success with a title win in the ICC Womens ODI World Cup, to be held in New Zealand from March 4 to April 3.
Having tasted defeat by just nine runs in the final of the 2017 World Cup against England, India went on to reach the T20 World Cup decider in 2020. However, once again they faltered at the last hurdle, losing to a strong Australian side at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by 85 runs.
In 2022, the Women in Blue will be looking to go one step further and claim their first ICC trophy.
The year gone by wasn’t the kindest for the women’s cricket team as they lost ODI series to South Africa (1-4), England (1-2) and Australia (1-2) — the latter two as part of the multi-format series. However, what’s clear is that at their best, India are good enough to beat anyone, having ended Australia’s four-year and 26-match winning streak in the ODI series in their backyard last year.
The upcoming 50-over World Cup could also be the ‘swansong’ for veterans Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, who have been giving their services to Indian cricket for over two decades now. And they will definitely try to finish their respective careers on a high.
While skipper Mithali and seamer Jhulan will be key to India’s success at the World Cup in New Zealand, the veteran duo will need plenty of support from India’s rising stars like Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Richa Ghosh and Sneh Rana, among others.
On the other hand, the likes of Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur, Shikha Pandey, Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gaekwad and Jemimah Rodrigues also have enough experience of international cricket, which will be crucial in the challenging conditions of New Zealand. The team will also play five ODIs against hosts New Zealand in February, which will be an ideal preparation for the mega event.
Overall, India have a good mix of youth and experience, and when they open their World Cup campaign against Pakistan on March 6 at Tauranga, they will be one of the title contenders in the quadrennial event.
England and Australia have been India’s nemesis in the ICC events, but as they say, “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you,” and the Mitali Raj-led side will look to change their fate and grab their first ICC silverware.
Meanwhile, 2022 could also bring a much-awaited good news for women’s cricket in India, i.e, a women’s IPL. There has been a growing chorus for organising a full-fledged women’s IPL and talking about the same, BCCI Secretary Jay Shah recently stated that the board is working on a plan to organise the event in the near future.
“The women’s T20 Challenge has drawn huge interest among the fans which is an encouraging sign. We all want a league like IPL for our women cricketers, but it is not just about putting together three or four teams and announcing the launch of a women’s IPL,” Shah said.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play like a dedicated window, availability of international stars and bilateral commitments of member boards, to name a few. We are exploring all our options and working towards organising a similar league for our female players in future,” he added.
A World Cup title in New Zealand and the women’s IPL could be the icing on the cake for women’s cricket in India in 2022.