Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur has declared teenage star Shafali Verma is ready to handle the spotlight of a World Cup final in front of what could be a record crowd for a women's stand-alone sporting event.
Officials have the dream final they were after with heavyweight cricket nations Australia and India to face off at the MCG on Sunday.
Teenager Shafali Verma has been a powerful force for India.Credit:Getty Images
Wrist-spinner Poonam Yadav shredded the hosts on a spin-friendly deck in Sydney with 4-19 – her high looping deliveries and wrong 'un exposed Australia's poor footwork – and she will have another key role to play. She had been thumped for six in her first over by Alyssa Healy but Kaur said she had responded well to being reminded of the expectations the team had of her.
"That was the first game she was playing after a long injury and everybody panicked at that moment," Kaur said.
"I just told her she is a key bowler and she has always done well for us. She understands her role for the team. I hope [on Sunday] she will give her best for the team."
However, the MCG pitch – which could be flat – is unlikely to provide as much encouragement for her as Sydney had.
India's batting was also less than convincing in that Sydney encounter and it was left to a composed 49 from Deepti Sharma to ensure they posted what proved to be a winning 4-132 in front of a record crowd for a stand-alone women's game in Australia.
Kaur is a superstar but her form through this tournament has been a worry. She averages 27.17, with one century and six half-centuries, in 113 T20 internationals but has only 26 runs at 6.5 in four innings here.
She hopes for a more prosperous performance on what will be her 31st birthday, when she will have her parents and younger brother at the ground. It will be the first time her mother has attended a game.
The Australians have dubbed themselves the "Black Panthers" after the superhero movie character's ability to absorb pressure but the Indians know what it also takes to turn the spotlight on the home side.
"We just need to enjoy this moment. It's a big moment for all of us … just do your best," Kaur said.
India's strong performance here has fuelled hopes a women's Indian Premier League can be fast-tracked. A fourth side has been added to the women's T20 Challenge in India – with the seven matches to be held during the men's IPL play-off week in Jaipur – but Australia's players say they do not yet have details.
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