Five things Australia must nail to stop rampaging India

Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet Kaur pose with the T20 World Cup trophy. © Getty Images

Almost from the day after Australia thrashed England to lift their fourth T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean in 2018, the talk about ‘Australia 2020’ had begun. Months later, when it was announced that the event would be a standalone women’s World Cup, the buzz only increased. As the ICC, Cricket Australia and the Local Organising Committee continued to pull out all the stops to #FillTheMCG and ensure the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 was the biggest women’s world event ever, the excitement continued to build. Come February 2020, it was like the world was collectively holding their breath, expectantly waiting for March 8, 2020.

With the big day around the corner, two of the most dominant teams in the tournament – Australia and India – have sealed their places in the title clash. For the organisers (and fans), it is a dream scenario. Although Australia entered the competition as strong favourites, India’s performances over the last couple of weeks mean they have the hosts genuinely worried ahead of the title clash.

Women’s CricZone lists out five things the hosts will have to nail if they want to keep India from stealing their crown.

1. Mission Shafali

Since her international debut in September last year, Shafali Verma has been turning heads with her incredible power. In the World Cup she has set the stage alight, scoring 161 runs in just four innings at an average of 40.25 and strike rate of 161. In the opening game of the tournament, she got India off to a rapid start, hammering 29 off just 15 deliveries including five fours and a majestic six over mid-off before she was dismissed by Ellyse Perry. Through the preceding tri-series too, Verma tormented Australia’s bowlers belting them all around the park, only looking a tad uncomfortable against the pace and bounce of Tayla Vlaeminck and Perry.

ALSO READ: Sensational Shafali Verma’s rise

Sadly, for the hosts, both their fast bowlers are out injured, which leaves them with only a group of medium pacers (and one underbowled Annabel Sutherland) and spinners. That almost completely rules out the ‘short ball’ tactic. How then will they contain ‘Hurricane Shafali’?

2. Leg-spin or googly?

In their opening match of the tournament, it was Poonam Yadav’s spell that derailed Australia’s chase. After Alyssa Healy had gotten them off to a brilliant start in their chase of 133, tonking another T20I half-century, it looked like the hosts would run away with the game. That, however, was before Yadav had gotten into her spell. As is her way, the diminutive leg-spinner ripped through Australia’s middle order, accounting for Healy, Rachael Haynes, Perry (FIRST BALL) and Jess Jonassen. None of the batters could pick her googly, which made her doubly dangerous. It was almost as if Poonam’s loopy deliveries left Australia hypnotised – their batters wide-eyed, and stranded mid-pitch!

In the previous edition of the T20 World Cup, England dealt with Poonam’s spin by having their coach Alistair Maiden bowl leg-spin whilst on his knees. How Australia will choose to prepare is anyone’s guess, but they will need to find a solution quickly. Those 24 deliveries could be the difference between a win and a loss on Sunday.

ALSO READ: How Poonam Yadav took down Australia

3. How right is left?

During this edition of the T20 World Cup there has been much discussion about the lack of left-handers in women’s cricket. Australia are one of two teams (the other being Sri Lanka) with an abundance of left-handers. This has often meant they have had the luxury of shuffling around their batting order to make sure they have a left-right combination going. While this makes perfect sense more often than not, Australia have, through the tournament, sometimes taken this tactic a little too far, sending in the likes of Nicola Carey ahead of Ellyse Perry or Jess Jonassen ahead of Ashleigh Gardner. Neither tactic particularly paid off. They certainly won’t want to mess this up on finals day!

4. Home pressure

This has been the most talked about World Cup of all. Australia were expected to rock up and blow past all the competition. The attention of the entire country – and the entire women’s cricket fraternity – was on them and they had to deliver. Considering their form over the last two years, it was almost a given. However, India unsettled them early with a thrilling win in the opening match, and after struggling against Sri Lanka in their next game, Australia suddenly looked like a deer in the headlights. They were stuttering in the spotlight under the pressure of a home World Cup!

But in the end, like any champion team, the hosts picked themselves up, and after a few ‘ugly wins’ find themselves in the final. As Lanning said, they have given themselves a chance, and that’s all that matters. One just wonders whether Australia have actually gotten used to the glare of a home World Cup and will be able to lift the weight of expectation – without their superstar allrounder, and in a stadium potentially full of blue?!

ALSO READ: Left is right for Australia this T20 World Cup

5. Keep clear of Knockout Kaur!

It’s a well-known fact that a quiet Harmanpreet Kaur is a dangerous Harmanpreet Kaur. The Indian T20I captain has the knack of pulling out incredible performances in crunch (read, knockout) games. While her record in tournament finals is nowhere near that of a certain Meg Lanning, Kaur has made a bit of a habit of scaling new (often unimaginable) peaks when the rest of the world have almost given up on her.

Although the Indian captain has had a poor tournament with the bat so far, she showed glimpses of form in the final league match against Sri Lanka. After an extended break, will Knockout Kaur make an entrance? Or will Jess Jonassen maintain her hold over the Indian skipper?