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Women carry India's hopes in T20 World Cup

June 17, 2009 22:31 IST

The mood in the Indian women's camp, in Nottingham, on Wednesday was one of excitement and delight. Finally, some of the Indian media contingent, who had been religiously following the men's team until they were knocked out in Super Eights, changed sides and seemed interested in the women's team practice sessions and press conferences.

The surprise was obvious considering they had outdone their male counterparts, who lost three matches in a row to be knocked out of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament.

On the other hand, the women's team bounced back in style after losing their first match of the tournament to hosts England by ten wickets. They outclassed arch-rivals Pakistan by five wickets and followed that up with another five-wicket win over neighbours Sri Lanka to romp into the semi-finals.

"We would strive to keep India's flag flying in this tournament. We are peaking at the right time," a beaming manager and Indian women's cricket legend Diana Eduljee said in Nottingham on the eve of their semi-final match against New Zealand.

Interestingly, the top teams who had failed to make it to the semi-finals of the men's competition had made it to the last four of the women's event. South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies have made it to the men's semi-finals, while India, England, New Zealand and Australia have progressed to the last four of the women's competition.

Captain Jhulan Goswami hoped this performance by her team would raise the profile of women's cricket in India.

"It's a big thing for women's cricket that the match will be played before the men's semi-final. It's a nice way to promote women's cricket. That the game would be telecast live is a boon. Our friends and family will be able to watch us and that will be an inspiration for us. The players are excited. Hopefully, we will be able to draw youngsters to women's cricket," she said.

India's main hope in the semi-final against the Kiwis would largely rest on their star batsman Mithali Raj, who has scored 71 runs in three matches so far. Medium pacer Rumeli Dhar has shown great control with five wickets at an amazing average of 6.40 and Priyanka Roy has also enjoyed a great run with the same number of wickets at 8.20.

"Mithali Raj is the best batswoman in the world right now. She is the mainstay of our batting and the longer she is at the wicket, the better our chances of winning tomorrow's game. We have a good batting line-up; it runs deep. But still the bowlers will have a big role to play in these conditions, evident from leg-spinner Priyanka Roy's five-wicket haul in the game against Pakistan," quipped a confident Jhulan.

Unlike the men's team who came into the tournament after a long run in the Indian Premier League, the women's team entered the event with minimum experience of Twenty20 cricket.

"We came into this tournament with not much T20 experience, having played just two internationals, against England and Australia. The only thing we know about T20 is that players have to be proactive and flexible and constantly try to read the opponents' minds," Jhulan said.

She also believes her team is capable of causing an upset: "The shorter the game, the better the chance to create an upset. In a Twenty20 game, it all boils down to who plays well on that particular day."

Eduljee, meanwhile, revealed that the Indian men's team had wished them luck and hoped they would go all the way to win the title.

"I got a message from the manager of the men's team, V Chamundeswarnath, after our game against Sri Lanka. He said 'what we couldn't do, you all should achieve' as he wished us luck."

Harish Kotian in Nottingham