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Mithali wants to be part of 250-plus trend, Maroof is backing Pakistan to pull a West Indies on India

With bilateral series cancelled because of non-cricketing reasons, the two teams have almost no experience of playing each other

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Four of six innings at the 2022 Women's ODI World Cup so far have had totals in excess of 250, with at least one batter scoring a hundred in them. Mithali Raj, whose India will begin their campaign on Sunday against Pakistan, believes that - one batter playing a long, decisive hand - could well be the norm if the trend of high scores is to continue.
"The first game [between New Zealand and West Indies] and even today, watching England versus Australia, I think the wicket is definitely helpful to the batters but 250 is something every team is looking at to put up," Raj said on the eve of the big game. "But it's equally important to have a set batter playing throughout the innings because the wicket is a little on a slower side, so it's not something that a new batter can come in and straightaway get to scoring runs.
"Having said that, the bowlers also have… they can use the variations on these wickets. So it's not completely a belter of a wicket, I would say. To start off the tournament, it is good that they are posting totals of 250, but as the tournament goes on, I'm assuming that it might come down a little with the wickets tending to be used more."
"That was a missed opportunity - against India, we couldn't play because of some reasons. If we could have played, it was very good for the subcontinent, the girls in the subcontinent, and now we are really looking forward in this World Cup"
Bismah Maroof on the cancelled bilateral series against India
Bismah Maroof, the Pakistan captain who is leading her team at an ODI World Cup for the first time, agreed on the trend, and was also hoping to add to the list of upsets after West Indies beat New Zealand in the opening game.
"It was a really exciting match and I think the wickets (pitches) here are very good," she said. "And they assist bowlers as well. And I think we will see very high-scoring matches - and yes, I think the teams can upset, and we can expect higher-scoring matches in this World Cup."
The 2017 ODI World Cup, which had as many matches (31) and teams (eight) as this edition, had 15 250-plus totals, and the overall run rate for the tournament was 4.69. In the ongoing edition, the rate is 5.03 at the moment. Two chasing sides have come close to overhauling totals in excess of 250 so far - New Zealand posted 256 in response to West Indies' 259 and England made 298 for 8 in reply to Australia's 310 for 3 - with at least one batter scoring a century in each innings. The only exception was the Bangladesh vs South Africa game, where Bangladesh made 175 after bowling South Africa out for 207.
Since the end of the 2017 World Cup, India have made 250 or more only eight times in 40 matches, winning three of those, two while chasing. Their opponents for their 2022 ODI World Cup curtain-raiser, Pakistan, have made 250 or higher in three out of their 34 outings in the same period, winning two - both times batting first - and tying one game.
Though both teams have historically relied heavily on spinners, Maroof expected the young Pakistan pacers, Diana Baig and Fatima Sana, to have a strong impact on the fixture.
"Yes, we have improved as a fast-bowling unit, especially Diana and Fatima Sana have come far away and we have gelled together and we have the right combination in our bowling and all the bowlers complement each other," Maroof said. "And yes, it's just that (our) batting (needs to click). We're looking forward that if we can put up a good show in batting, we really know that our bowling unit can do well."
Pakistan's circuitous entry into the World Cup - via the qualifier, which was cancelled because of the pandemic - has, to an extent, been because of circumstances beyond their control, one of them being the bilateral series against India not taking place, not for the first time. As such, the two teams haven't faced each other in the format since the 2017 World Cup, when India won by 95 runs.
"Of course, if we could have qualified directly [which might have been possible if Pakistan had earned full points for the cancelled series, like before the previous World Cup; this time, points were split], it would be a very good booster for our team," Maroof said about the series that wasn't. "But, having said that, yes, that was a missed opportunity - against India, we couldn't play because of some reasons. If we could have played, it was very good for the subcontinent, the girls in the subcontinent, and now we are really looking forward in this World Cup. And we are really focused that we can put up a good show."
Raj said India's approach going into the face-off with Pakistan would be one of taking things as they come, since the opponents are quite unfamiliar.
"As a team, we need to get in with a clean slate, [as a] confident unit, and believe that we can always turn things around and play according to the situation," she said. "It's very important when you have a longer tournament, important to be present be aware on the ground and play according to the situation."

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha