India has been a revelation when it comes to their performances ICC tournaments since 2017. The 2017 edition of the ODI world cup propelled the progress of women’s cricket to the highest pedestal.

Without a doubt, it inspired many people to watch, cheer and follow women’s cricket especially in the country. The big differentiator in that was that while much of cricket was only confined to adoring and following the men’s game, the 2017 success catapulted the Women’s sport to a fine pedestal.

India Women’s team’s teamwork and the fighting spirit pulled more enthusiasts to follow the sport. As a team, India improved and that showed in as they advanced to the knockouts for the second time in the history of the game.  

But that was then. What’s happened hence?

Many changes were seen including the change in sporting culture, better pay scale, more matches were organised than in the past, greater emphasis was given to sports psychology and stronger support staff for the women’s team. 

Coming to the performances, India haven’t quite been the massive force they’ve usually proven themselves to be in the last two cricketing seasons. So how’s that? India lost all the ODI series against the SENA countries it played in the post-Pandemic era.

Prior to the 2020 COVID outbreak, India won seven ODI series out of the eight it has played except the one against Australia it lost in March 2018, held here in India. 

Every progress it made to improve was outdone by the Covid-induced break for the Indian team. The team had to endure all the shortcomings that came from not being able to play for more than a year. It had to begin the process again.

The perfect succession plan was on charts only after reality test by South Africa when it won the series by 4-1 in 2021. That’s when many youngsters like Shafali, Yastika became regulars in the team post 2020.

India has a young team but the veterans are the key to progress in the tournament. In some ways, there’s the classic balance between the might of the experienced and the flair of the young. For for the side to go the distance – both will have to click.

India Women’s team has a settled opening order with Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma cementing those slots. Yastika Bhatia has the flexibility to bat in both- whether the top or the middle-order, but to steady any collapses in the lineup up top, she will be the crucial player to hold the game together along with the veteran Mithali Raj.

An absolute legend of the game, Raj’s calmness is often the guiding factor of the India Women’s team. Raj batting at four and Harman following on gives the stability required in the middle order. 

Mithali’s composure and Harman’s aggressiveness brings the much needed combination to balance the team in any given situation. But it’s precisely here where a key question goes unanswered or has, at least, in the last two years in ODI cricket. While Mithali’s been constantly pumping out the runs and mostly, through fifties, are all checks and balances done since they come in at a strike rate in the sixties and seventies?

Richa Ghosh and Pooja Vastrakar are potential finishers and should be trained and utilised specifically for this task. Deepti is a handy and a reliable batter both in the middle and lower order. Despite having an organised batting setup, India’s batting collapse is still a troublesome issue that it has to get over. 

But once the openers get off to a good start, the other batters will in turn have the free hand to finish the match with a bang. Perhaps the top three, once again, will lay the foundation for the 2022 Women’s World Cup.

India Women’s Team bowling, though not short on quality and experience, poses a bit of a major concern. Prior to the commencement of the mega series, the axing of Shikha Pandey came in as a shock but it was clear the establishment were wanting to try new faces and usher in youth into the mix of things.

Yet, in here lies a challenge. The bowling unit’s predictability has increased over the years and in turn the resistance has come down to keep batters in check. Jhulan Goswami will lead the pacers, while Rajeswari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma will be the main spinners. 

There’s little doubt about who the finest spinner of the unit is. Miserly like an accountant who hates giving an extra penny away and effective like a remedy that nails any pain, Rajeshwari Gayakwad has risen and risen in this side.

Pooja will be the second seamer, and if required, any among Meghna Singh and Renuka Singh will be the third pace option. Sneh Rana has the ability to finish matches and a reliable bowler in the squad, that’s a choice India might give a chance to explore. 

India’s fielding standards are a big let down through the years since the last world cup. It’s an area that needs improvisation and clarity in the roles.

One peculiar character of this India Women’s team is that they learn, grow and improve as any series or a tournament progresses. Much like an Australia or England, they aren’t on an all-out attack from the word go or the maiden contest.

It was visible in all the four series against SENA countries it has played till now since 2020. It has the ability to turn the tide in its favour at will, but this tournament it has to begin from game one itself. All said and done, India Women’s team is still a tough side and can beat any in this tournament. But to get ahead and go the long way, they’ll have to treat every contest as their last in the series and leave nothing to chance. The world knows they’re game changers.