A young Indian squad will aim to emerge from the shadows of a winless past when it launches its bid for a maiden title with a tough opener against New Zealand in the first standalone Women's World T20 starting here on Friday.
India have not been very competitive in the shortest format compared to the 50-over game in which they scripted a path-breaking moment last year when they reached the World Cup final.In the end, nerves got the better of them and they lost the title clash to England after being in complete control at one stage.
Captain Harmanpreet Kaur and recently-appointed coach Ramesh Powar insist that the team has learnt from that final loss and the presence of youngsters, including six World Cup debutants, makes the squad "fearless".
India have never won the World T20 in their previous five attempts with their best result, a semifinal appearance, coming in 2009 and 2010. This is the first standalone World T20 for women after being held alongside the men's event in the past editions.
In the lead-up to the World T20, India have hit good form, beating hosts Sri Lanka before blanking Australia A at home. What should give them additional confidence going into the opener is the wins against reigning champions West Indies and England in the warm-up matches.
Opener Smriti Mandhana, on whom India will be relying heavily in the Caribbean, said the Asia Cup T20 final loss to Bangladesh in June was a timely wake-up call.
"After the setback in the Asia Cup, everyone went back and worked hard. You can see everyone is up to the mark where you need to be at the international standard," said Mandhana, who is also the vice-captain.
"The Sri Lanka series has been really good. For me personally, I didn't get really good scores, but one match, Harmanpreet and I didn't score a single run and we got 170. That was brilliant.
"The bowlers too have improved massively in last three months, they are clear with their plans. And fielding wise, we are 10 per cent better than in the last World Cup," added Mandhana, who will open alongside veteran Mithali Raj.
While Mandhana's performance will be crucial at the top, teenager Jemimah Rodriguez, Tanya Bhatia and Harmanpreet will make up the middle order.
The spin department, led by leggie Poonam Yadav, is India's strength while the pace department lacks experience after the retirement of veteran Jhulan Goswami.
India have failed to go past the group stage in the previous three editions and they will have to play well consistently to advance to the knock-outs.
After the opener against New Zealand, India will face Pakistan on November 11, Ireland on November 15 and three-time champions Australia on November 17.
Coach Powar, a former India off-spinner, has high expectations from his team.
"They know that if we grow as individuals, the team grows, the Indian women's cricket grows, and people will start noticing the game in India and around the world," Powar told the ICC's official website.
"When you enter such tournaments, you have to break records, get noticed as an individual and team also, so I'm looking forward to that," he added.
India squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Ekta Bisht, Dayalan Hemalatha, Mansi Joshi, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Anuja Patil, Mithali Raj, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav.
New Zealand squad: Amy Satterthwaite (c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout (wk), Sophie Devine, Kate Ebrahim, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katey Martin, Anna Peterson, Harriet Rowe, Lea Tahuhu, Jess Watkin.
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