As the sun for Friday rises in the United Kingdom, the Edgbaston Cricket Ground will witness a new dawn for women’s cricket when India face off against T20 World Cup champions Australia in the first-ever match of the women’s T20 event at 2022 Commonwealth Games.
As Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet Kaur lead their teams at Edgbaston, it will also mark the comeback of cricket in the Commonwealth Games fold after 24 years, when the 1998 edition had men’s List A matches at Kuala Lumpur. But, in 2022, Birmingham will see the debut of women’s cricket and T20 format together.
The inclusion of women’s T20 cricket in the 2022 Commonwealth Games is seen as a crucial moment to spread its visibility towards a much broader multi-sport watching audience and at the same time, prove to be a vital example for cricket pushing to be included in 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“Because as a cricketer we are always wishing to play more cricket and this year, we are getting participation in a multi-sport event. I think that whenever you go for an event, it becomes very important to perform well and to show the capabilities in your team. In future, if we get to participate in tournaments like this, definitely it is going to be very good for women’s cricket,” said Harmanpreet in a virtual interaction before leaving for Birmingham.
Whenever India and Australia have met previously in group stages of Women’s T20 World Cup, the ladies in blue jersey end up on the winning side. In the 2018 edition in West Indies, India had beaten Australia by 48 runs. In the 2020 edition, India again defeated Australia by 17 runs, leaving them on the brink of an early exit from the tournament at home.
Though Australia won the tournament by defeating India in the final in front of 86,174 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, fans from both sides will be itching to see how an India-Australia clash in the Commonwealth Games 2022 pans out.
With all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar yet to join the team due to Covid-19 infection and batter Sabbhineni Meghana on her way to join the team, India effectively have 13 members to choose from for their playing eleven against Australia.
Apart from Harmanpreet, a lot depends on a strong core of Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma if India are to clinch a medal in the quadrennial event. With Sneh Rana returning after being rested from the Sri Lanka series and wicket-keeper plus strokeful batter Yastika Bhatia in the mix, India have a good mix of experienced and youngsters.
On the other hand, Australia have the same set of players who were there in the T20 World Cup triumph at home and more recently, in Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. They have a depth which is the envy of all nations, so much that premier all-rounder Ellyse Perry hasn’t been a sure starter in the T20I playing eleven. Though they are without Matthew Mott, who’s moved on to be England men’s white-ball coach and Ben Sawyer, who’s now New Zealand women’s head coach, expect Australia to retain their dominant play.
Winning a gold medal in the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be the extension of the legacy Meg Lanning and her team will be aiming for. But they will be up against an energetic Indian team which is in the post Mithali Raj-Jhulan Goswami era and with a killing attitude in mind, expect them to give a tough fight to Australia in yet another mega event.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Shafali Verma, S. Meghana, Taniyaa Sapna Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Yastika Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Thakur, Jemimah Rodrigues, Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol and Sneh Rana.
Australia: Meg Lanning (captain), Rachael Haynes (vice-captain), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy (wicketkeeper), Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland and Amanda-Jade Wellington.