India’s middle order will need to fire to give the team a good chance of excelling in the women’s ODI series against Australia which begins in Mackay on Tuesday.
India lost back-to-back series against South Africa and England primarily due to poor batting. India’s next challenge could not be tougher as Australia is on a record 22-match winning streak.
Lack of firepower has been a sore spot for India since the home series against South Africa and head coach Ramesh Powar has clearly conveyed his expectations to the batters. Depending on how the batting performs, captain Mithali Raj will decide on whether to bat at No. 3 or 4 in the longer run. With Harmanpreet injured for the opener, she is likely to stick to 4 to lend more solidity to the batting line-up.
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The team has realised that Punam Raut neither has the power nor the game to build momentum at No. 3 after the flamboyance of Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana.
Jemimah Rodrigues, who had a dismal run against England, played brilliantly in The Hundred and is back in the reckoning for the No. 3 spot. Mithali, with her two-decade-long experience, is also a good candidate for the No. 3 spot as the innings as she can drop anchor while the innings is built around her. She is in good form, too: she scored three consecutive half-centuries in England at No. 4.
Middle-order batter Deepti Sharma would hope to improve her strike-rate to be more impactful during the ODI series. Even during the one-off practice game, Deepti consumed as many as 93 deliveries to return with a 49 not out. She is indispensable, however, as it's her tight off-breaks that India would require in the middle overs.
Yastika, Richa in the reckoning
Left-hand batter Yastika Bhatia has a good chance of being a part of the playing XI on Tuesday. She is a hard-hitting batter with a good range of strokes in the off-side. During the warm-up game against Australia that India lost by 36 runs, Yastika scored 41 off 42 deliveries.
Richa Ghosh, an attacking batter, could also play during the ODI series.
Australia's bowling line-up won't be its most experienced as Cricket Australia wants to manage the workload of the players in a series with a short turnaround between formats. This could play to India's advantage.
Veteran seamer Ellyse Perry will have Annabel Sutherland, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Stella Campbell for company in the absence of seasoned pacer Megan Schutt and spinner Jess Jonassen. The warm-up game between the teams suggested they may be aiming to bounce out the India batters.
It is Australia's mighty batting line-up that poses a bigger challenge for the visitors.
During the warm-up match, the Indian bowlers - besides leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and senior seamer Jhulan Goswami - looked out of rhythm as the home team scored 278 in 50 overs. The line-up of Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Perry and Beth Mooney form a formidable five.
Jhulan and Poonam will need a lot of support. With Shikha Pandey not having measured up in recent series as Jhulan's pace bowling partner, rookie Meghna Singh might be tried out along with bowling all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar.
- India : Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Yastika Bhatia, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Richa Ghosh, Ekta Bisht.
- Australia : Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vice-captain), Darcie Brown, Maitlan Brown, Stella Campbell, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Georgia Redmayne, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham.
- Match starts at 5:35 am IST.