Unlike their male counterparts, there isn't as much history between India Women and Pakistan Women. Starting from 2005, they have played only 14 limited-over matches against each other, with India prevailing on 13 occasions. Their next clash, a Group B encounter of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2016 at the Feroz Shah Kotla on 19 March, could be the most high-stakes one yet.
The last time the two teams played in India was during the ICC Women's World Cup 2013, in the seventh-place play-off game in Cuttack. Mithali Raj stole the show with a match-winning unbeaten 103, but admitted that the team had aimed to finish much higher than it did.
Three years later, a lot has changed. India Women tasted victory in England and Australia, and a core has emerged around the veteran duo of Raj and Jhulan Goswami. Harmanpreet Kaur has grown in stature, Smriti Mandhana has been a stunning addition to the top order, Veda Krishnamurthy has rediscovered her game, and Poonam Yadav, Anuja Patil, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Ekta Bisht have strengthened the spin department.
The blend of youth and experience has made India one of the teams to watch out for in the ongoing tournament, but it is not getting ahead of itself. Even as a policeman took a selfie with Raj, Goswami explained the nuances of pace bowling on camera and senior scribes tried to strike up conversation with the players during the practice session in New Delhi, Purnima Rau, the coach, reiterated that her team wouldn't be overawed by the expectations of playing televised matches at home, and continue doing what has brought them six wins in their last seven Twenty20 Internationals since the start of the year.
The 72-run victory over Bangladesh Women in the opening game in Bangalore was an almost perfect show. The confidence of the top order reflected in the manner in which they fired in unison to give the bowlers a much-needed cushion. An encore against Pakistan will put India in a commanding position in the group, but it is easier said than done on a pitch that has historically assisted the slower bowlers.
Pakistan lost to West Indies Women by four runs in its first game in Chennai, but the spinners shook up the opposition. Led by the left-arm spin twins of Anam Amin and Sadia Yousuf, they restricted West Indies to 103 for 8.
Pakistan's chase received a big blow when Javeria Khan fractured her finger in the first over and was ruled out of the competition. Javeria has been a permanent fixture in the team since her debut in 2008, and her absence puts the onus on the likes of Sidra Ameen, Bismah Maroof and Sana Mir, the captain, to add more punch to the team's batting in the remaining games.
Even if it has not made much of a splash in world events, Pakistan's style of play has always been impressive because the side's nucleus has remained the same for many years now. The team's favourite memory against India came in the 2012 edition of the competition in Sri Lanka, when Nida Dar and Maroof picked up five wickets between them while defending 98 to eke out a famous one-run win.
"This is our first-ever win in World T20. It is a delightful feeling, and I believe this win is one of the high points in our careers. It will be a good advertisement for the sport back in Pakistan," Mir had said soon after that historic triumph. "We have been looking ahead to this game for a long time now and I thought the girls showed tremendous character."
India: Mithali Raj (c), Thirush Kamini, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Niranjana Nagarajan, Shikha Pandey, Anuja Patil, Deepti Sharma, VR Vanitha, Sushma Verma (wk), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Poonam Yadav.
Pakistan: Sana Mir (c), Nahida Bibi Khan, Ayesha Zafar, Sidra Amin, Bismah Maroof, Muneeba Ali Siddiqui, Nida Dar, Iram Javed, Asmavia Iqbal, Anam Amin, Sadia Yousuf, Aliya Riaz, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Nain Abidi, Diana Baig.