Aaron Pereira, at the County Ground, Derby
Aaron Pereira, at the County Ground, Derby
Australia could well be a victim of their own strength in women's cricket, with India captain Mithali Raj hailing the influence of the Women's Big Bash League for her side's World Cup semi-final triumph over the defending champion.
Match Report: Australia out after Kaur's Cup carnage
Raj said it was the WBBL competition that gave star batter Harmanpreet Kaur the knowledge, confidence and ability to produce an innings like the epic unbeaten 171 she smashed against the Australians in Derby.
Kaur was the Sydney Thunder's second leading run-scorer in WBBL|02 last summer, scoring 296 runs in 12 innings at 59.2, an average boosted by seven not outs that highlighted her finishing ability.
Only Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell, with 386 at 38.60, scored more. Kaur's 11 sixes in the competition were more than double the next best in Thunder ranks.
"I think the transformation definitely happened after (Kaur) played in the WBBL," Raj said.
"That exposure, she and Smriti (Mandhana – who played with the Brisbane Heat) gained a lot of knowledge of interacting with other players, against Australia it was they who were giving us more inputs about these players."
Kaur was the difference in India's defeat over the heavily-fancied Australia side, blasting an unbeaten-171 from just 115 balls and scoring the fourth-highest World Cup total of all time in her side's 37-run victory.
And her captain believes the more experience India's female cricketers achieve and the more climates they are exposed to, the better it will be for her side in the long run.
"If more players who are a part of these leagues where they exchange ideas and follow the routine of other players, being part of the meetings, it will only help improve the standard of women's cricket, as well as it's very beneficial for youngsters and players from Indian team," she said.
Quick Single: 'I wanted to prove myself' says Kaur
The Thunder won six of their 14 matches in WBBL|02 and finished outside the final four, having been runners-up in the first season, but despite the team results Kaur said she learned much as a player.
"In the WBBL I really enjoyed it, I had a good team and they always gave me good confidence," Kaur said post-match.
"My captain Alex (Blackwell) is a motivating girl and she always appreciates my innings, it was great fun for me to play for the Sydney Thunder."
Kaur and Blackwell met up post-match, with Blackwell giving the 28-year-old her playing shirt and commending her progress as a world-class cricketer.
"I've seen her bat like that before but not for that long and she hit the ball incredibly well today," Blackwell said after the match.
"We've seen a couple of big innings this World Cup, but that's probably the best one yet given the what was on the line; a place in the final.
"She can be very proud to get her team in to that match against England."
Australia captain Meg Lanning said the benefits gained by foreign players in the WBBL was a welcome side-effect of having a world-class competition.
"There's no doubt the WBBL is a great competition and it has attracted the best players around the world to it," Lanning said.
"So, I guess it does expose them to high-quality cricket under pressure.
"I think it works both ways to be honest: we (Australians) get to see them (overseas players) a little bit more and they see us a little bit more.
"That's the nature of cricket. It happened in the men’s game and now it is happening in the women’s game where you now play alongside other international stars.
"And you've just got to adapt, that's the key. Making sure you keep improving your game so that you are one step ahead."
Her knock was lauded as the greatest ever seen by Women's ODI's two highest runs-scorers ever, Mithali Raj and Charlotte Edwards.
"From the Indian team (it was the greatest innings ever), it is good to see someone play from the Indian team, especially at this stage," Raj said.
"It was important for us to come out with something like this performance to qualify for the finals, it is not easy to beat Australia."
The Sydney Thunder batter said whilst there may now be pressure on her to perform at Lord's on Sunday, she won't change her approach.
"I will hopefully I will continue this innings in the final, now there will be a lot of expectation on me and hopefully I will do well."