Leading the noisy congregation from the front was the lithe figure of skipper Mithali Raj, who just minutes ago had finished briefing the media about her team's plans leading up to the big event on home soil. Not too far from her was the beanstalk figure of Jhulan Goswami as always towering over her colleagues, making them look even more pint-sized than they actually are.
The odd-sized couple have after all been the poster-girls of Indian women's cricket for close to a decade now. And not for the first time, Raj and Goswami will once again have to shoulder the load of their team's fortunes on the grandest stage, starting with the curtain-raiser against the girls from the Caribbean at Brabourne on Thursday. Such has been the dominance of the duo with bat and ball respectively over the last many years that the rest of the faces in the team have overall remained anonymous. Just like they did in the huddle on Wednesday.
The ICC Women's World Cup, now into its 10th edition, will once again be about the world's best women cricketers trying to create their own identity in a field dominated by their male counterparts. Even within this Indian team, the tournament could well be the best platform for the many unacknowledged names to finally climb out of the shadows of their foremost colleagues.
Their skipper for one is certainly excited about both the seasoned and the new faces in her dressing-room. And Raj's confident that they are set to create a significant impact.
“India never had a very good opening pair. This time we have Thirush Kamini who has made a comeback, while Poonam Raut too has been in consistent form. In both the practice games, the openers have done really well and given us a good start,” she said.
The Indian squad is among the oldest in the competition with an average age closer to 30 and with a number of them into their second and third World Cups. And this will be the last chance for the likes of wicket-keeper Sulakshana Naik, Reema Malhotra, and probably even Raj and Goswami.
“We have some amazing, talented cricketers like Harmanpreet Kaur who has been very consistent with the bat. We have Poonam Raut, Thirush Kamini, and we have wicket-keeper Karuna Jain who is making a comeback after the 2009 World Cup. We have Niranjana (Nagarajan), who has done very well with the ball. And then we have Rasanara (Parwin) who is a very young girl and a talented off-spinner,” explained Raj.
The Merissa Aguilleira-led West Indian outfit are an intimidating proposition, especially considering how far the boundary ropes have been brought in at the CCI, in a not too subtle way to promote more stroke-play.
And while the next two weeks could prove to be life-changing for the likes of Raut, Kamini and Kaur, it will once again be the two old-hands who will have to fire if Team India have to make themselves heard and noticed.
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