As Natalie Sciver slapped the ball towards mid-wicket for a boundary, earning a place for England in the final of the ICC T20 World Cup 2018, there was a look of intense anguish on the face of India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur who had led her side on to the semi-final in search of a maiden triumph. Harmanpreet had shepherded her side into a state of supreme confidence, with the India women unbeaten in the tournament till the semi-finals, before faltering when it mattered the most. This was no isolated instance, with the side having stumbled in the final of the ICC ODI World Cup in 2017 against the same opposition, losing by nine runs. The India Women were bowled out for 219 after being handed a target of 229 runs, in a shocking collapse which saw them tamely surrender from a score of 191/4. Not only this, the side was further knocked out of the ICC T20 World Cup in the semi-finals of the 2009 and 2010 editions of the tournament, indicating an inability to deliver the goods under pressure.
However, Harmanpreet's band of warriors now has a chance to finally end the jinx, after reaching the final of the ICC World Cup 2020, following their semi-final clash against England being washed out. While the players will certainly be haunted by their past failures when it mattered the most, this maiden appearance in the final of the T20 World Cup certainly provides a valuable opportunity to record a historic triumph, while at the same time set the record straight.
The India Women are one of the two unbeaten sides in the tournament, which has been achieved on the back of extraordinary performances through thick and thin. Opener Shafali Verma has been amongst the top run-scorers and a revelation, to say the least, with her aggressive gameplay and ability to smash the ball to all corners of the ground. Shafali has soaked in the pressure effortlessly, despite a poor campaign personally for the other established batswomen like Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur.
With 161 runs in four matches at an average of 40.25 and a strike rate of 161, the 16-year-old has shown maturity beyond the years to emerge as the side's talisman. Shafali will be looking to maintain the same surge in the final of the elite tournament, enabling her side to register a historic triumph.
The bowling attack has further been extremely efficient, with spinner Poonam Yadav the top wicket-taker in the tournament so far, having accounted for nine dismissals. Who can forget Poonam's heroics in the opening clash of the tournament against hosts Australia, who seemed set to chase down a paltry total at one stage? Senior pacer Shikha Pandey has led from the front, bringing all her experience to the fore under pressure. Come Sunday, all these factors will combine to present India with an opportunity to emulate the 1983 heroics of the Men's team. Can they grab the initiative and throw caution to the wind? Only time will tell.