India host the tournament for the third time – 1978 and 1997 were the previous occasions – but the only time they reached the final was in South Africa in 2005.
They face a stiff challenge to repeat that performance in front of their home crowd. Not only have Australia and England proved to be too strong for India over the last eight years, they face a potential challenge from emerging sides such as the West Indies and even South Africa.
Although they made the semi-finals of the World Cup and the World Twenty20 in 2009, they failed to make it to the last four in the World Twenty20 in either 2010 or 2012. However, they have been slow to adapt to the shortest format of the game and will point to the 50-over game as their stronger suit.
Playing at home will give them certain advantages in familiarity with pitch conditions and venues but could also prove a hindrance as they will be expected to perform, especially in the afterglow of their male counterparts stunning success at home two years ago.
At their best, India are a match for all but the very best in the world. They have struggled to consistently produce their best form, as their 3-2 series loss in England last year, having been 2-0 up, would show. Furthermore, they have won less than half of their matches since the last World Cup, including a 3-0 reverse at home to Australia last year.
Mithali Raj, now embarking on her fourth World Cup, continues to score runs and is hard to dismiss. Jhulan Goswami leads the attack and all but guarantees early wickets. A golden run of form from this experienced pair and contributions from younger talents such as Poonam Raut, Harmanpreet Kaur and bowlers Nagarajan Niranjana and Ekta Bisht could see India remain in the hunt for longer than their post-2009 form would suggest is possible.
India should be strong enough to beat Sri Lanka in their group without too much difficulty but the game against the West Indies will be pivotal. Depending on other results, it could define which teams go through to the Super Sixes and it will certainly give us pointers as to which of the two sides is best set up to go further in the competition.
Nevertheless, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men were more or less expected to win in 2011, Raj’s side face an even tougher test here. Should India win this tournament, it would be on a par to Kapil Dev leading his side to victory against the odds in 1983.
2012-13 form (most recent games first):LLLWWWLLLLLW
11th July 2012: lost to England by 29 runs at Wormsley
8th July: lost to England by three wickets in Truro
5th July: lost to England by three wickets in Taunton
4th July: beat England by 14 runs in Taunton
1st July: beat England by five wickets at Lord's
24th June: beat Ireland by nine wickets in Loughborough
16th March: lost to Australia by five wickets in Mumbai
14th March: lost to Australia by 221 runs in Mumbai
12th March: lost to Australia by 30 runs in Mumbai
4th March: lost to West Indies by three wickets in Saint Kitts
2nd March: lost to West Indies by 42 runs in Saint Kitts
29th February: beat West Indies by 76 runs in Saint Kitts
Previous Tournament Performances
1973: Did not compete
1978: Fourth place
1982: Fourth place
1988: Did not compete
1993: Fourth place
1997: Losing semi-finalists, beaten by Australia
2000: Losing semi-finalists, beaten by New Zealand
2005: Runners-up to Australia, losing by 98 runs in their maiden final appearane
2009: Third place, beating Australia in the positional play-off
31st January v West Indies in Mumbai
3rd February v England in Mumbai
5th February v Sri Lanka in Mumbai
Mithali Raj (captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Ekta Bisht, Amita Dass, Jhulan Goswami, Karuna Jain, Reema Malhotra, Mona Meshram, Thirushkamini Murugesan, Sulakshana Naik, Niranjan Nagarajan, Rasnara Parwin, Poonam Raut, Shubh Lakshmi Sharma, Gouher Sultana.
© Cricket World 2013
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