By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Though it has won three in three so far, West Indies Women can’t afford to decelerate ahead of the semi-finals
India might be out of the reckoning for the semi-finals at the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2014, but there's still plenty to play for. For starters, its last Group B fixture against West Indies at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Tuesday (April 1) is an opportunity to prove that it has learnt from its mistakes, that too against a side that is on a roll. If it was to look beyond, a win could give India the opportunity of finishing fifth in the tournament, even if that is just scant consolation.
The talent in the line-up has never been questioned, but the temperament and confidence has been. The 79-run win over Bangladesh Women on Monday came as a salve to a battered and bruised outfit, but the team will be aware that it will have to elevate its game by a couple of notches if Merissa Aguilleira's West Indies, riding high following three consecutive victories in the tournament, is to be challenged.
Two insipid batting performances left India with no option but to go with the popular vote. Mithali Raj, the captain, and Harmanpreet Kaur, who was quite surprisingly slotted down the order for the first two games, opened, and delivered, against Bangladesh.
The two complemented each other superbly with Raj's aggression and Kaur's obvious class giving India an ideal launch pad for a final flourish. It also meant the side's two best batters had the opportunity to play a majority of the overs. While doubts over the middle order remain should one of them have an off day, it can't be denied that the current combination is India’s best bet to win matches.
While the batting looked in control, the bowlers were all over Bangladesh like a rash. Jhulan Goswami was fiery and Shubhlakshmi Sharma swung the ball both ways, while the slow options, although not threatening, stuck to their task for most parts. Of course, how they perform when under the cosh against explosive batters like Deandra Dottin and Stafanie Taylor will decide which way the contest is headed.
West Indies wouldn't want to tinker with its combination too much, given that a slip up could decelerate it ahead of the semi-finals. There's very little separating England and West Indies in terms of net run-rate, and the result will determine if West Indies will end up as group toppers, for that would decide its opponent in the final four.
West Indies' strength is undoubtedly its batting, but the manner in which the bowlers have chipped in over the course of the tournament should make the team management happy. Shaquana Quintyne, the offspinner, and Shanel Daley, the left-arm medium pacer, won the Player of the Match awards in their last two outings respectively. And that bodes well for a well-oiled unit gunning for its first appearance in the final of the World T20.
India Women: Mithali Raj (capt), Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Poonam Raut, Madhuri Mehta, Latika Kumari, Karuna Jain (wk), Jhulan Goswami, Gouher Sultana, Soniya Dabir, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Sravanthi Naidu, Shubhlakshmi Sharma.
West Indies Women: Merissa Aguilleira (capt, wk), Shemaine Campbelle, Deandra Dottin, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Stafanie Taylor, Stacy-Ann King, Shanel Daley, Natasha McLean, Anisa Mohammed, Subrine Munroe, Shakera Selman, Tremayne Smartt, Shaquana Quintyne.