thunder Down Under
‘T20 is a
lot like baseball’
on the fast rack
As the women’s cricket World Cup begins in Australia from today, M.S. Unnikrishnan looks at the Indian squad and some of the other prominent challengers
Asia Cup champions India would be sparing no effort to win the ninth edition of the ICC Women’s World Cup Cricket Championship 2009, to be played in Australia from March 7 to 22, though the task looks very stiff and difficult.
The championship will feature the eight top-ranked teams — Australia, India, New Zealand, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan.
This will be the first World Cup since the integration of the men’s and women’s cricket boards in Test-playing countries.
India still nurses the wounds of their 98-run defeat to Australia in the title clash of the eighth edition at Centurion Park (South Africa) in 2005, with Karen Rolton striking an unbeaten 107. This time around, five-time champions Australia would be defending their title in their home turf. The hosts also hold the psychological advantage of having blanked India 0-5 in an ODI series Down Under just four months back.
But Indian captain Jhulan Goswami was confident of doing well as she felt that India had a fine mix of old and young players with a lot of variety to choose from — in batting, bowling and fielding — to make an impact on the bouncy tracks in Australia.
The experience of fast bowler Jhulam Goswami, former captains Mithali Raj and Anjum Chopra, Amita Sharma and Rumeli Dhar will come in handy against tough teams like Australia, England and New Zealand while exciting prospects like Thirush Kamini are raring to explode.
"Our team is very balanced with the right mix of experienced and young. Only three players have not played overseas. We have had good workouts in the two coaching camps held at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and the Mumbai Cricket Association ground", Jhulam, who was adjudged the ICC Player of the Year in 2007, said before the team’s departure to Australia.
Though women’s cricket now get the support and patronage of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the eves are still treated as the poor cousins of their male counterparts, though now many women cricketers have taken the game as a full-time vocation, making a living out of it.
No surprise, the Indian girls are determined to give their best shot, for if they bring home the World Cup, the profile of the game will receive a nice makeover, benefitting the women cricketers immensely. Former captains Mithali Raj and Anjum Chopra would be playing their swang song and there would be no better platform for them to sign off than a World Cup rostrum. Both will be the batting mainstays of India as Mithali Raj had totted up 199 runs in South Africa. Overall, she has scored 3302 runs in ODIs.
Anjum Chopra, who made her ODI debut at the age of 17 against New Zealand at Christchurch in 1995, has represented the country in 109 ODIs, scoring 2542 runs, including 455 from 19 World Cup matches. Anjum, along with Australian captain Karen Rolton and England skipper Charlotte Edwards, will be the only players to represent their respective countries in four successive World Cups.
Anjum was dropped for
the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka in 2007, and the subsequent tour of England,
but staged a comeback for the trip to Australia, on the strength of her
performance in the Challenger Series
The eves have now realised the immense value of winning the big trophies as there is money and fame to be had on a platter. There are now many takers and backers for winners, as champions in other sports disciplines have been reaping rewards as never before.
The first Women’s World Cup was held in England in 1973 — two years ahead of the inauguration of the men’s World Cup. England won the first and fifth editions, while New Zealand clinched the seventh. The rest were won by Australia, who were also runners-up twice, as against three and two times by England and New Zealand, respectively.
In the inaugural edition and later in 1978, the championship was held in a round-robin format. But this time, there will be preliminary group matches followed by the Super Six contest, to decide the titlists.
The Indian team are scheduled to open their campaign against Pakistan on March 7 at the Bradman Oval in Bowral, near Sydney, provided the Pak women turn up, as their participation looks doubtful following the terrorist strikes on the Sri Lankan players in Pakistan. One match less would do no harm to the Indian girls, who are favourites to advance to the Super Six stage from Group B, which also include England and Sri Lanka.
India have never lost to either Pakistan or Sri Lanka in the World Cup, so there should be no hiccup as far as their progress into the Super Six is concerned. India have pleasant memories of the Bradman Oval as they had won both their practice games during their last tour of Australia by 48 and 82 runs respectively.
Jhulan took five wickets in the two matches, and also struck an unbeaten 41, off 31 balls. In fact, Jhulam’s impressive record of 105 wickets from 93 matches, will be a boosting factor for India as they strive to lift the coveted cup.
Goswami said "We are not looking at any game as easy" and they would take every match on merit.
With former player Sudha Shah as coach and ex-Baroda Ranji Trophy player Tushar Arothe as fielding coach, the team have been well-tuned in the two coaching camps before their departure to Australia.
The Championship will involve 25 matches, with Australia taking on New Zealand in the opening tie at the North Sydney Oval on March 8. The group stages will be held from March 7 to 12, the Super Six qualifiers from March 14 to 19 and the final on March 22.
For the first time, the Women’s World Cup matches will be beamed live to over 100 countries, giving it a massive boost.
Sourav Ganguly has bid adieu to international cricket but he still remains passionate about the sport. Ganguly speaks to Ritesh Sharma on life post retirement, cricket, reality shows and more
How did this show Knights And Angels happen?
It’s all because of IPL (Indian Premier League). It's because of cricket I am here and no other reason. And I am really enjoying it. It's a new experience and I am here choosing cheerleaders.
And it’s a good way to spend some time post retirement?
Yes, of course. After so many years of continuous cricket, I am finally relaxing. This is good way to relax though because I am still keeping my association with cricket.
What about politics? A lot of speculations are being made that you might just join politics?
(Smiles) No way. I am not joining politics and have no intentions in joining it in the near future. I am happy with the way I am.
Okay, but it might be that you change your opinion some day?
(Smiles again) As of now I am sure that my decision of not joining politics won’t change`85 and I am really confident about it that I won't join it.
So, how did this show happen?
As I said I am here for the sake of cricket. It was Shah Rukh (Khan) who requested me to be a judge and I also thought that it wouldn't be a bad idea. After all these cheerleaders will be cheering for Kolkata Knight Riders only.
And how do you go about this? Any specific plans?
We will be selecting six girls out of 24 and then groom them. One thing that I understand is that cheerleading isn't an easy job. It's also a specialised area just like another other form of art. It's not all about dancing but a lot more than that. Moreover, I am not a dancer neither am I into dancing, so I will judge them based on their attitude, energy level and ability to cheer and boost the morale of a team.
Your wife, Dona Ganguly is a professional dancer? Didn't you get any handy tips from her before judging this show?
(Ha... Ha... Ha) No way. She doesn't even know properly what am I exactly doing except that I am judging this show to choose cheerleaders.
Apparently, there were quite a lot of controversies and protests around the cheerleaders?
I don't think that has anything to do with this. And what's wrong in cheerleaders. We need to look at the entire thing differently.
Twenty20 cricket is about a bit
of cricket and some entertainment`85 much like it happens in baseball. And after
all cheerleading is a difficult job. So what's wrong in having cheerleaders?
They add to the glamour factor of the game and at the same time cheer the team.
It's not only about dancing but also a lot about understanding
Don’t you plan to be part of a dance reality show sometime?
No way... never (smiles). I am not into dancing. Dancing is only for people like Bhajji, Shreeshant and Dinesh Karthik.
On a serious note are you worried now that Ricky Ponting and Chris Gayle won’t be available for IPL this season?
See, we knew it long back that Rickey wouldn't be available. In a way it would be harsh on him because he will be tired after a hectic international schedule. And we too wanted someone who would be available throughout the season and not for just 10 days. That's why we are looking for an international replacement. We will soon finalise one.
Even the bowling strength would weaken with no Pakistani bowlers around this time?
Ishant (Sharma) really needs to lead from the front. We are banking on him and are quite hopeful. We have Mashrafe Mortaza too. And we are looking for another bowler. We will miss (Umar) Gul too. We are looking to have him next year again if Pakistan allows its bowlers to play.
But was it a good idea to have Mashrafe Mortaza and that too at such a high price?
See, going by his talent we are really happy to have him in the team but as far as the price goes, it's not in anyone's hands. It's a bid and not selection and it all depends how the other teams bid`85 (Pauses) At times the other teams bid so high that the price automatically goes up.
So what are your expectations with the team this time?
I am hopeful. This time we will have players who will be there throughout the season and not just for the first two weeks. Last year teams like Rajasthan Royals did well because they had players like Shane Warne who were there throughout the season. We too are looking forward to do better this time.
The Indian team is already in New Zealand and the team hasn’t won a series there in 41 years?
New Zealand has always been a tough territory and this time too it will be testing time for the team. But I am hopeful they will do will with the current form they are having. But they need to adjust well to the conditions because they will be playing on seaming wickets and seam has always been the strength of the Kiwis.
Despite heavy rains lashing the circuit, Giancarlo Fisichella of Force India was the fourth quickest on the second and penultimate day of the official test session.
Fisichella managed just 54 laps, the least among the eight runners, clocking a best of one minute, 31.547 seconds as compared to the top three of Timo Glock (Toyota, 1:30.979, 89 laps), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber, 1:31.327, 70 laps) and Nico Rosberg (Williams, 1:31.451, 114 laps) here Monday.
Running on extreme wet and standard wet Bridgestone tyres, Fisichella displayed good pace but problems with fuel system precluded a more extended run in the brand new VJM09.
"Considering the amount of laps we did today, it was quite encouraging. It was a reasonable time and six-tenths off the fastest, so I am quite pleased," said Fisichella who will make way for Adrian Sutil for Tuesday’s test session.
The team’s technical director James Key said: "Again, difficult weather and we missed some of the better conditions in the morning as we had a few technical issues. It was the same problem with the fuel system, but we found a solution from mid-morning onwards that allowed us to do some more running.
"Other than this problem, the car has been very good, and we ran through a programme of systems checks and balance comparisons between the extreme and the standard wet tyres. We’re confident we’re on top of the issues now and can get on with the programme tomorrow, where we will look at some more set-up options." — IANS