Minutes after India Women defeated Australia in the second T20I in a Super Over on Sunday, batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar had a word of advice for each and every member of the outfit.
“Remember this feeling. This is why you play cricket. This is how you want to feel every time you play for India. This is why all players who aspire to play for India play the game,” Kanitkar, who is doubling up as the acting head coach, said.
And when India squares off against Australia at the Brabourne Stadium for the third T20I on Wednesday, it would want to draw inspiration from Kanitkar’s speech. With the series levelled at 1-1, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side still has a mountain to climb if it hopes to earn a series win against the top-ranked Australian outfit.
Though Renuka Singh Thakur managed to defend 20 runs in the Super Over the other night, the fact that the bowling line-up has failed to fire as a unit will be an area of concern for the team. In the stipulated 20 overs, India’s pace bowling was all over the place and in the first two games, the team could only manage to bag a couple of wickets, raising serious questions over its planning and strategy.
In the absence of Pooja Vastrakar, rookie left-arm pacer Anjali Sarvani was drafted into the side and the youngster has so far been unable to provide early breakthroughs. In unfavourable conditions - the wickets in Mumbai helped the batters more - Renuka, who has been India’s key bowler in the last six months, has failed to meet expectations.
While Deepti Sharma has had an impact as a genuine all-rounder, returning to the T20I fold after eight years, wrist-spinner Devika Vaidya, too, hasn’t been able to contribute to the bowling department.
However, the seasoned Vaidya did her bit with the willow in a tricky situation in the second T20I, where she hit a couple of boundaries, to ease out the pressure. If bowling is an issue, India’s fielding has also been below-par so far, and it is important that the team management finds a way to address the issue immediately.
As far as batting is concerned, India would heave a sigh of relief with Smriti Mandhana returning to form. Her aggressive style of play in the second game had set the tone for the team and going forward, she would be hoping to keep the momentum going on batting-friendly surfaces.
Shafali Verma, too, has been impressive. However, given the fact that both Shafali and Richa Ghosh won’t be available for the entire series as they would be joining the Indian camp for the U-19 World Cup, the team management needs to have a ‘Plan B’. While Shafali has had quickfire starts so far, Richa has proved her mettle with some powerful sixes in the second T20I and going forward, the team would certainly miss their presence.
Jemimah Rodrigues has been unsuccessful in the last two outings and playing at home conditions, the Mumbai girl would be hoping to return to form. Her strokeplay and the ability to play big shots will help the team in the matches to come. Even if the openers fumble at times, Rodrigues has the ability to steady the middle-order and forge steady partnerships with captain Harmanpreet.
Having won its first game quite convincingly, Australia perhaps did not imagine that India would bounce back in such a fashion. And taking lessons, captain Alyssa Healy would be hoping to lead from the front and bring the team’s campaign back on track. India ended Australia’s winning streak this year and going forward, Healy would be trying to ensure that the bowling improves.
So far, Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath have been in unstoppable form and the team would be hoping for them to keep the momentum going. In the last game, Australian bowlers struggled to make an impact and in the remainder of the series, it would be a challenge for them to improve.
The first two games at the D. Y. Patil Stadium had witnessed huge crowd turnouts, and as the series moves to the iconic Brabourne Stadium, the organisers are confident that fans will continue to fill up the venue.
However, the capacity of the Brabourne Stadium being just 20,000, the turnout will be lower compared to the D.Y. Patil Stadium, which had a 45,000-plus strong crowd on Sunday.
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