The last time that India Women’s side came to lock horns with the White Ferns in a World Cup, Shafali Verma hadn’t yet worn the Indian jersey, Amelia Kerr hadn’t yet struck her magnificent double century in ODIs, Alana King hadn’t yet made it to the Australian camp and Annabel Sutherland was still very much a teenager. The contest held way back in July, 2017 turned out to be an encounter for the White Ferns with India firing bullets into the opponent camp.

In reply to India’s dominant 265, a total helped massively by Mithali Raj’s century (109 off 123), all that the New Zealand could manage was a paltry, very disappointing 79. Was this even expected? Perhaps not really given Martin, Bates, Devine, and Sattherthwaite, all of whom who are still around and going strong, simply failed to contribute with the bat.

But in some ways, you could say India’s hammering of the White Ferns in the 2017 World Cup contest was them avenging their 2009 world cup loss. While two of the most enterprising sides in white-ball cricket couldn’t get a chance to have a go at one another in 2013, the two met at the Super Six stage of the 2009 World cup contest, held at Sydney.

And despite Anjum Chopra and Reema Malhotra’s valiant fifties that guided the team to a 207, the score was just not good enough to challenge the White Ferns, who eventually overcame the routine ask with over two wickets to spare, winning the contest by 5 wickets in the end.

But as India and the White Ferns come face to face for yet another World cup tussle with the match slated to begin in the next few hours, there’s a lot more riding for New Zealand than it is for India.

For starters, as hosts, New Zealand are literally playing at their own den and that too, against an opponent over whom it enjoys incredible supremacy where the ODI results are concerned.

How’s that?

Having won 32 of the 53 ODIs they’ve contested against India, there’s a touch of gold in the White Ferns’ limited overs form against a familiar sub-continental rival. Moreover, the White Ferns have replicated their success in the highest stage of limited overs’ competition, winning 9 of the eleven contests against India in the ODI world cups.

Is a twelfth win on the cards for Devine‘s team? Let’s not dwell into the matters where the future has the ultimate say. What we do know, however, is that in Bates, only 128 away from 5,000 international runs, fresh from an undefeated 79 (vs Bangladesh), New Zealand’s finest current cricketer is in from. Devine’s bat herself has been doing the talking, the rip-roaring right-hander fresh from a warm up ton, which was followed up by a domineering 108 versus the Windies.

Lea Tahuhu is among the wickets and Katey Martin’s begun to hit well again from down the order. Then there’s the ever dangerous Amelia Kerr, easily the most exciting limited overs talent in the women’s game. She knows a thing or two about dominating India. The last time the two teams met each other, which wasn’t ages back in time but actually a month ago, Kerr smoked 353 runs including an unbeaten ton. That she emerged 121 runs ahead of India’s best batter that series, Mithali Raj (232), was enough indication of form and intent.

But form and intent are exactly what India have too, where the current circumstance stands. A fantastic warm-up victory over the West Indies women, quite frankly the team all are talking about right now, followed by an actual win against the Pakistan women, have given India the kind of confidence they’d need.

And confidence is exactly the buzzword that someone like a Harmanpreet Kaur would like to have, actually plenty of it. Contributing 60 valuable, very watchfully compiled runs to India’s tally of 265 in the 2017 World Cup game, it was Harmanpreet Kaur’s bat that offered some music and lyric to a Kasparek, Tahuhu, Rowe and Kerr-powered attack back in the day.

Now’s the right time to peak. There’s not an awful lot that Kaur’s done of lately and that’s a massive area of concern. What may and ideally should motivate both Harmanpreet and her captain, Mithali Raj is to get back among the runs having missed out against Pakistan. A lot, therefore, will be riding on Smriti Mandhana, the star with the bat in the last contest. Should Mandhana and Varma fire on early and get going, India’s hopes of engaging in a mighty tussle with the White Ferns will certainly take centrestage.

What seems settled for both teams is their batting department. For India, though, there’s much needed respite in the way Sneh Rana and Pooja Vastrakar have realized their responsibilities. It’s not always that a mainstream seamer fires a fifty and an off-spinning all rounder is involved in a game-changing stand.

What happened in the game against Pakistan is what India wouldn’t, not that they won’t need runs but heck, not at the behest of a top and middle order collapse. It’s exactly something that the White Ferns would’ve seen footages of. The gentle drives by Rana, the rasp cuts by Vastrakar.

From a Kiwi perspective, they’d want the Smash Sisters– Devine and Bates- to go wild with the bat as they so often have in the past. That’s nearly 8,000 runs together for the duo. They’ll feel secure in the hitting prowess of Martin and names like Maddy Green. Should someone like a Satterthwaite, among the best player of spin give the top order some company, things could get hot for India. That’s precisely where the combined experience of Jhulan Goswami and Rajeshwari Gayakwad, 248 ODIs between them, could likely play a decisive edge.

Make no mistake, Goswami, three shy of 250 ODI wickets, will be raring to go. Can this massive milestone be achieved in the next few hours? What sort of damage can Gayakwad wreck on the White Ferns. Will it actually be a contest where the bats sing ballads or will they be blunted by the might of the ball?

There’s so much to play for, for one and all. Stay tuned to what’s poised to be a one heck of a contest.


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