India Women's team head coach Ramesh Powar has defended the selection of the 18-player touring party for the upcoming Women's ODI World Cup in New Zealand in March-April.
Asked about the omission of experienced fast bowler Shikha Pandey and batter Jemimah Rodrigues, Powar stated that players were picked based on their current performances and consistency. "Each player who didn't make the cut knows why she wasn't picked. The communication from captain, coach and selectors isn't a one-time communication... for the last six months, I have been very clear about their roles. I had told them what was expected of them. There's competition for places, and if you don't perform, you don't get your chances," Powar said during a virtual press conference on Sunday. He was joined by ODI and Test captain, Mithali Raj.
"Five selectors, captain and coach have discussed all the players. We came out with the 18 players who can excel in the New Zealand series and the World Cup. You cannot pick everyone. There are only 15 spots and three standbys. We were looking at fast bowlers Meghna Singh and Renuka Singh, who were both doing well. The batting unit has been doing well with Smriti (Mandhana), Mithali (Raj) and Yastika (Bhatia) being consistent," Powar added.
India was runner-up at the last 50-over World Cup in 2017, with England winning a thrilling final at Lord's. The Mithali Raj-led side will renew its pursuit of a maiden ODI world title on March 6 in New Zealand. India’s run to the final had generated significant interest in the country and Mithali said, "the progress in women's cricket, in the four years since, has been good. The standard in domestic cricket has improved massively. This season, I have seen a lot of players scoring hundreds. Many girls have also got the opportunity to participate in overseas (T20) leagues, which gives them exposure just before the event (World Cup)."
India Women are scheduled to play five ODIs against New Zealand before the World Cup, and Powar feels that will help the team "acclimatise to the conditions. We have tried to fill every gap and are happy with where we stand now. The focus will be on maximising the strengths of the players we have."
This year, India hosted South Africa for five ODIs before playing a three-match series in England and Australia. India lost all three series but ended Australia's 26-match winning streak in the third ODI. India, which struggled to post 250-plus scores regularly earlier, did that twice in the Australia series and even chased down 265 in the final ODI. Asked how the team could breach the 250-mark more consistently in ODIs, Mithali said, "Firstly, if you look at the 2017 World Cup, whenever we scored in the range of 250-280, there was usually one top-order batter who played through the innings, and the rest revolved around her. One of the top three must take up the responsibility of batting long. We also need one or two partnerships of 50 each in the middle order... to score 250. The middle or the lower-middle order rarely score the bulk of the runs. As a batting unit, all of us need to play our roles."
Mithali also said there is too much importance given to strike-rates. "I believe that cricket is a game played according to the situations. Yes, we must keep in mind that we need to have a decent strike-rate but in the end, it is about how the batting unit revolves. When we need to score 250-270, we need to have a healthy strike rate, but having said that, we will not entirely focus on strike rate, it is important to play an innings to win and build partnerships.
"I just wanted to know if you all only follow the strike rates of the India players or the players from the other teams, because if you might give me an opportunity to enlighten [you], the Australia [ODI] series itself, the game that Australia won, the decider, if you've seen Beth Mooney, who scored her 50 in 80-odd balls, but she went on to play a match-winning innings for the team. You have to play to get your team out of a hole sometimes. There will always be areas to address, no team is perfect."
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