India will start their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday. The team came dreadfully close to the title twice, finishing runners-up to Australia in 2005 and England in 2017. A look at where India stood before the tournament and why women‘s football deserves more ‘Warning :
1. Count favorites
Heading into the competition, India’s form leaves a lot to be desired. The team were nearly unstoppable for two years after the 2017 World Cup, but a recent dip in form is cause for concern. He has lost all three of his bilateral away series since last year. Moreover, in New Zealand, where the World Cup is played, the team have only won 40% of their games and India lost an ODI series last month.
Six-time champions Australia are big favourites, having won 31 of their 33 matches since the last World Cup, including a victory against New Zealand. Reigning champions England and South Africa are also strong, with only one bilateral series defeat since last year. Hosts New Zealand look shaky due to their recent form, although their series win over India and home advantage may give them confidence.
India face a tough challenge from Australia and England in the round-robin phase.
2. Key players
While India’s batting is rich in experience with the likes of Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, the pace bowling attack is relatively inexperienced. Apart from Jhulan Goswami who has played 195 matches, the rest of the Rapids have played 20 ODIs combined.
The team will then depend more on spinners, who bring enough experience to the table: Deepti Sharma has picked up the most wickets among spinners visiting New Zealand since the last World Cup.
While conditions in New Zealand have traditionally favored pacers slightly more than spinners, the latter have also been among the wickets in recent years. India will be hoping their young attacking pace will take advantage of the conditions.
The South African bowling attack is among the strongest. His spearhead Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka are among the top five wicket takers since the last World Cup. The all-out attacks from Australia and England will also be in the spotlight.
3. In-Game Legends
This World Cup could well be the last for two of India’s most prolific players: Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, who will both turn 42 at the next edition. Raj, the skipper, has represented India in every edition of the World Cup since 2000, the only player in this tournament with this feat. She also led India in her two finals. With 11 scores over 50, including two centuries in World Cup matches, she is second only to former New Zealand skipper Debbie Hockley. Raj also recently became the first batter to score 7,500 runs in the format.
Goswami is also at the twilight of his career. In her 29 World Cup appearances for India since 2005, she won 36 wickets, the third highest for a bowler. She also has 245 ODI wickets to her name, the highest by far.
Both players will be looking to end their World Cup run with a win.
4. Price inequality
Just last week, the United States women’s soccer team won the right to equal pay to the country’s men’s team. Although the women’s team is more successful on the world stage than the men’s team, it has fought for pay equity for several years. Gender pay parity in all four Grand Slam tennis events has only recently been achieved. ICC cricket events are a far cry from that – and the upcoming World Cup is a stark reminder of that.
The winner will take home $1.32 million, a third of the amount the England men’s team received three years ago as World Cup prize money. It’s even below the $1.6 million the 2021 Men’s T20 World Cup champion received. This is despite a doubling in prize money since the 2017 tournament. It shows that despite their exploits on the field and their growing popularity, the cricket business treats women’s teams unequally.
5. Less playing time
Since 2017, the Indian women’s team has featured in 60 ODIs. Between August 2017 and March 2021, the team won seven of its eight bilateral series, four of which were away: in South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the West Indies. This period also saw milestones such as Jhulan Goswami’s 200 ODI wickets and Mithali Raj’s 7,000 ODI runs.
However, all of this is alarmingly short of the 90 games the men’s team has played in the same period, earning chances to claim records and claim greater financial might. In all top-ranked teams, women played fewer games than men.
As women’s football grows in popularity in India, demands for an Indian Women’s Premier League are growing. BCCI, the wealthiest cricket body, has said it is planning a full women’s IPL in 2023. Such domestic leagues for women and men are already being played in England and Australia. It is time for India to create one so that its female cricketers get their due.
Tauseef Shahidi contributed to this piece
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