World Cup final: Mithali Raj-led squad eyes history, glory

 London, Jul 22: History beckons the Indian women's cricket team when it takes on England in the ICC World Cup final here today, aiming to cap a fairytale run with a maiden title triumph and put some past demons to rest.  

The Mithali Raj-led squad has been living a dream so far in the tournament, the biggest moment of which has been the 36-run win over six-time champions Australia in the semifinals.

And the side will look to ensure that its gritty campaign reaches the logical conclusion after putting in the hard yards consistently in the tournament.

India's best performance in the event has been a runners-up finish in the 2005 edition, where the team had lost to Australia in the final. With Australia out of the way now, tomorrow could prove to be the moment that changes the course of women's cricket in India.

It was at this historic Lord's cricket ground, where the men's team took its game-changing world title in 1983 with an upset win over the invincible West Indies and gradually grew into a cricketing and financial powerhouse in the world. 

A win tomorrow has the potential to do the same for women's cricket in India, where they have had to arrange funds for overseas tours in the past.

It is only the second time that India will have a shot at the world title. Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj were part of the runners-up team in 2005 and tomorrow will be their last chance to be a World Cup winner. 

"For me and Jhulan (Goswami) it is very special because we are the only players from 2005 still with the team and for us it feels like going back to 2005," Raj said.

"We are all very excited to be part of the World Cup final. We knew this tournament wasn't going to be easy but the way the girls have turned up at every situation when the team needed," she added. 

If India win, they will become only the fourth team to do so with England, Australia and New Zealand sharing all the preceding titles.

En route the summit clash, it has been a team performance for India and Raj has led from the front. With 392 runs she is the second-highest run-getter behind Australia's Ellyse Perry (404).

Diminutive Smriti Mandhana began the fireworks at the top of the order in the beginning of the tournament and Harmanpreet Kaur took it to a different level with her incredible power-packed 171-run knock against Australia in the semifinals.

"It definitely is not going to be easy for England, but having beaten Australia, I am sure the girls are on a high but it will boil down to how we perform on the day. "Playing the hosts in their own country is going to be a challenge but this unit is up for it," Raj said.  

PTI