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Women's World Cup: India lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in first match (preview)

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Mount Maunganui, March 5 (IANS) In search of an elusive ICC trophy, the Indian women’s team will begin its campaign in the 2022 Women’s ODI World Cup against arch-rivals Pakistan in a marquee game, here on Sunday.

Like it is with the men, the women India and Pakistan teams also play each other only at ICC or continental events due to the political tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

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Based on their current ICC rankings, India (4th) are favourites or expected to win against Pakistan (8). However, the sharpness of their performance in their tournament opener will give the idea of how the mega event could turn out for them.

In the last edition of the 2017 Women’s World Cup, India lost to England narrowly in the final. And this time, India will be eager to go one step ahead and claim the title that has eluded them, especially for skipper Mithali Raj and veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, who will be playing their last World Cup.

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The Indian team reached New Zealand a month earlier in order to acclimatise to the conditions. The batting unit did a decent job putting runs in the recently-concluded white-ball series but it was the bowling department that led down the team.

Apart from Jhulan Goswami, who has been impressive, the other Indian bowlers have looked ordinary and failed to defend scores of 270 and 279 in successive games against New Zealand which is a big concern ahead of the marquee event. Without the experienced Shikha Pandey, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh Thakur and Pooja Vastrakar will have to step up and support Goswami, who has continued to keep things tight.

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Even though the batting unit was able to put 250+ scores several times against New Zealand, the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur and Shafali Verma have not been consistent enough and far away from their best. The other concern is that India may or may not have zeroed in on their best XI. Yastika Bhatia was seen as the No. 3 before Deepti Sharma moved up to take the spot in New Zealand.

On the other hand, Pakistan have built a settled bowling line-up and if the batters can follow the bowlers’ example, the team can give tough competition to the Mithali Raj-led side. Notably, Pakistan have gone winless at the last two ODI World Cups, and go into this tournament far from being the favourites.

Both teams haven’t faced each other in the format since the 2017 World Cup when India won by 95 runs.

Squads: India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Harmanpreet Kaur, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Rich Ghosh (wk), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Sneh Rana, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Jhulan Goswami, Renuka Singh.

Pakistan: Aliya Riaz, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali (wk), Nahida Khan, Bismah Maroof (c), Sidra Ameen, Nida Dar, Anam Amin, Omaima Sohail, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Aiman Anwer, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Ghulam Fatima, Nashra Sandhu.

–IANS

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