India kickstarts its campaign at the ICC Women's World Twenty 2012 with a tough game against Australia, the defending champion. While India would be hoping that subcontinent conditions favour it, the batting unit will need to fire in unison if it's to challenge the top teams.
Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur, who are ranked No. 3 and No. 6 in the ICC Women's Twenty20 rankings, will spearhead India's batting line-up, but it is the lack of runs from the others that is worrying Raj.
"Definitely the batting has been a concern," she said. "Harmanpreet Kaur and I have been in good form, but the other batters need to get into their groove. We are bound to fail at some stage, and then it will have to be someone else who will have to take the responsibility."
While the batting has been a problem area, the bowling pretty much picks itself with Jhulan Goswami, the former captain, expected to spearhead the attack. To complement her in the pace department will be Niranjana Nagarajan, the medium pacer, who performed well in the recently concluded tour of England.
The spin department will be led by Ekta Bist, the left-arm spinner, but India would be dented by the absence of Gouhar Sultana, the left-arm spinner who was ruled out of the tournament with a virus. Reema Malhotra, the all-rounder who was a part of the squad for the tour of England in June-July, has been called up, but it will be interesting to see if the team management will give her a game straightaway, given the side has the experienced Amita Sharma, as an all-round option.
Australia will perhaps be the team most under scrutiny, given it is the defending champion. But, Jodie Fields, the captain, believes that won't affect it in any way, and that it’s motivated enough to retain the trophy.
"Being the defending champion definitely brings some pressure but that also adds to our drive and focus as we want to bring the title home again," said Fields. "We have trained well in the past few days and had a good workout in the warm-up game against West Indies, which has set us up well for our first match against India."
Fields returns to lead Australia at the third edition of the ICC World Twenty20 after missing the 2010 edition with a hamstring injury. While she believes the conditions would be in India's favour, Australia’s training camp in Sri Lanka last month has given it a feeling of familiarity.
"Those 12 days were invaluable to our group," she said. "Just to be able to come over and train in the hot, humid conditions and get used to eating the food, drinking the water. Now that we've come back over here, everyone feels pretty familiar with the surroundings."
In Lisa Sthalaker, Australia have a fine all-rounder, touted as one of the best in the women's game today. Not surprisingly, her record of 604 runs to go along with 56 wickets, has elevated her to the top spot in the ICC Women's rankings for all-rounders. It is perhaps their ability to produce genuine all-rounders that gives Australia the edge. In Elysse Perry, they have another whose batting prowess and the ability to bowl seam up give Australia much-needed variety.
While one team would bank on its batting, the other would be hoping to adjust quickly to the conditions.