Teams seek revival after decisive losses to England
It is a scriptwriter's dream. No team is through to the semi-finals going into the last day of the Group B fixtures of the Women's World T20. West Indies could have become the first had they beaten England in Dharamsala on Thursday, but a one-wicket loss meant they had hit a road block. West Indies will draw solace from the fact that they are still in control of their fate - a win on Sunday would put them in the semi-finals - unlike India, who have to win and also hope England beat Pakistan in Chennai.
Stafanie Taylor leads a side who would win most battles of on-field celebrations, but very little of their vibrant nature has been seen lately. The captain herself was crestfallen after the loss to England, but hoped the team would move on quickly.
"It's actually hard when you look back at it, but it's already done," Taylor said, and yet her demeanor hinted that the after-effects of such a tight match still lingered. "You cannot change anything; have to just see some positives out. We know it's all in the game. We got a bit emotional because it came down to one wide in the last over. We kind of pulled things back after England's good start and that is where most of us got emotional. It was almost there for the taking. We travelled yesterday and we know the vibe in the team is still good. We have a good team and could bounce back."
Taylor is "free-spirited" most times, but taking over the captaincy in September 2015 has transformed her outlook. An otherwise fearless batsman, Taylor has had to slip into the role of shepherding the batting line-up. Scores of 40, 40 and 35 in the tournament so far suggest she has been successful, but that still does little to dispel a notion that West Indies are largely reliant on her and Deandra Dottin for their runs.
"We do have good talent coming through - Hayley Matthews and Shaquana Quintyne to just name a few. But the standard back home is not what we would have liked to," Taylor said when asked if the gap between domestic and international cricket was a bridge too far. "We are trying to get to where Australia and England are. The reason why you hear a just few of our names is because we are consistent. We are trying to get players to emulate us, be as consistent as they can be."
Taylor's opposite number Mithali Raj hoped India could cash in on a lifeline offered to them, even though they have to wait for a favour from England.
"The girls realise every match is very important. We have had some slip-ups, but have another opportunity to make do with. It's important for us to regroup and play well," she said. "I do understand lots of them were under pressure against Pakistan, it was evident. I'm sure that experience helped them against England. They gave the team an opportunity to come back into the game. It will help us in the future. As of now, bowling and fielding, we look good. We need to work a lot on the batting.
"One player can't get you the cup. To win a World Cup you need everyone to stand up at a certain time and deliver. Yes, there is pressure on us as senior players, but there are other important players like Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy and Shikha Pandey. These are the girls that are able to cope with the pressure. So come the big game, they have to step up."
Cricket aside, both captains were also asked about the disparity in pay, a debate that hasn't ceased even as the tournament enters the business end. While ICC has taken a few steps - like increasing the overall prize money of the women's tournament to 400,000 USD, a 122% raise from 2014, reports of women cricketers being made to fly economy class, and not business class like their male counterparts, have fuelled the fire. Taylor was as forthcoming as she could be on the issue.
"You actually hit me on the head there," she said. "It's a progress, for sure. We are the pioneers for the ones who are going to come after us. It's not going to happen overnight. It will be nice if we are paid the same because we work and train as hard as the men. The support we have received has not always been great, but we hope as pioneers we have set the platform for those to follow to reap the benefits."
Raj had a contrasting view. "The game is the same, the rules are the same. Men's cricket is looked at as an entertainment package. The input is more, so there is more money," she said. "Here, people are trying to still catch up with women's cricket. Maybe a year or two down the line, when it attracts more crowds, then we can talk about parity in pay."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo