Australia and India have been unbeaten in three games of the ICC Women’s World T20 so far, sealing their places in the semi-final of the tournament with one game to go.
On first glance at the Group B table and the results, they is little to separate the top two teams: Both are on six points after three wins. They have four of the top five tournament totals between them. Their wins have been comprehensive and comparable – by 52 runs, nine wickets and 33 runs for Australia, and 52 runs, seven wickets and 34 runs for India.
For Australia, Alyssa Healy has three Player of the Match awards with two half-centuries and one 48. India’s Mithali Raj has two awards, with two half-centuries in as many innings; Harmanpreet Kaur lit up the tournament opener with a century.
And, both attacks have taken 24 opposition wickets (including run outs).
In terms of attitude, “fearless” cricket, and an aim to “dominate” the opposition are common drivers for the teams – you hear versions of that in every media talk. They both also like to mix-up their batting order, and each player talks about having clear roles.
Yet, despite the numbers and the statements, these are very different teams. Where India are learning the domination game, Australia are the experts.
Ask the eliminated sides who their pick to win the tournament is, and Meg Lanning and Co. are clear winners. The three-time World T20 champions score in terms of depth (they have Ellyse Perry, one of the best batters in the world, batting as low as No.8 in recent times and Jess Jonassen, until recently the No.1 bowler in the format, sitting on the bench), their ability to get off to a blazing start (their Powerplay average run rate in the tournament is over nine an over), express pace (Perry, for instance, has hit speeds close to 120kph) and fielding.
Healy, who is in incredible form, said her scores were the result of a simple see-ball-hit-ball approach. But there’s more to it. Several teams have a top order that can emulate a style that’s high on risk and reward, but they’ve lacked the consistency of Australia’s line-up. It’s because the team in green and gold are better at identifying their scoring options, and creating them when they aren’t there.
It’s resulted in a self-assurance that runs through the side and shows in how they play the game. “If you want to be successful in these tournaments, you've got to play consistently well. And you've really got to nail the blueprint of play that's going to take you all the way,” said Perry.
“It gives people a lot of confidence, too, when the team's playing well consistently. And various people are getting opportunities at times, which is awesome as well, and important when we get put under pressure potentially later in the tournament."
India, meanwhile, have been more measured in their approach – Kaur’s century notwithstanding – and effective rather than grandiose. Their starts have been slower, and not all players carry the confidence of performance.
Going in their favour, though, is the presence of players capable of individual brilliance (the likes of Smriti Mandhana and Kaur can turn a game with the bat), a flexibility to change to the demands of the conditions (Raj may open or not come in till No.7), and a selection of world-class slower bowlers.
The bowlers’ is a quiet dominance – attacking, but in terms of fields and persistence rather than flashiness. They’ve been forcing batters to chase the ball and tying them down. Poonam Yadav, the diminutive leg-spinner, not only drastically takes the pace off, but also goes above the eye level to force mistakes.
When Australia and India meet on Saturday, the final day of Group B fixtures, it is not a knockout. Yet, it will offer an intriguing insight into how each team ‘dominates’ when up against a strong force. One thing is for sure, neither want to blink first.
“Ramesh sir (coach Ramesh Powar) has told us you should not be thinking [that] the opposition is dominating, is aggressive. That really keeps us under pressure,” said Mandhana. “We have to think that we are dominating, we are aggressive enough to defeat them.
“I don't think it is going to help us thinking about what they do, how they dominated, how they play their cricket, because at the end we have to go out there, bat and bowl and field.”