@ovshake42 5 minute read
India had not played international cricket since the Asian Games. Against a non-Asian side, they had not played since their T20 World Cup defeat to Australia in February. When they finally returned to the fray, it was with a new-look unit, replete with cricketers from the Under-19 World Cup and the WPL.
As a result, they came into the England series with something near-unprecedented: a 15-member squad with seven all-rounders. They went in with five in the first match.
That addressed a perennial issue of India not having enough hitters in a T20I side. With debutant Shreyanka Patil slotted at nine, they ran little risk of running out of batters. The Indian batters could now hit with abandon.
It was in tune with coach Amol Muzumdar’s words at the pre-match press conference: “We need to play a certain brand of cricket, which we have been known for … Fearless cricket is something I have always advocated..”
One can see where he was coming from. In 2022, India had scored at 7.71, their quickest for any calendar year. In 2021, that number read 7.36. Coming into the third T20I, their run rate for 2023 stood at a round 7.00 – and that included a 15-over bash of 173-2 against Malaysia. True, India have batted on some difficult pitches this year, but there was enough indication that they were not scoring quickly enough.
They tried to change that against England, but the match was as good as dusted by the time India came out to bat. They needed to chase 198, the third-most a side has scored in the history of women’s T20Is in a chase.
India outscored England inside the powerplay (55-2 to 43-2) and did comparably at the 10-over mark (82-2 to 89-2). Their eventual 159-6 was their third-best score against England (and best in a chase). It was a reasonable effort, especially when Sophie Ecclestone, seemingly unaffected by her significant injury layoff, returned 3-15 from her four overs. But it was not good enough. The 38-run margin demonstrates the one-sidedness of the contest.
It was not supposed to be like this. Renuka Singh Thakur had jolted England with two wickets inside the first three balls of the match. But Pooja Vastrakar had an off-day; the debutants, Patil and Saika Ishaque, could not dent the stand between Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver-Brunt; and Deepti Sharma was ineffective in her containing role.
Both Wyatt and Sciver-Brunt know Mumbai well. Five years ago, Wyatt had smashed 213 runs at a near-absurd strike rate of 182 across five T20Is at the Brabourne Stadium, a stone’s throw away from Wankhede. Sciver-Brunt had 332 runs and 10 wickets at the 2023 WPL, where most matches were played at DY Patil Stadium in the suburbs or Brabourne.
Here, they added 138 in 14.2 overs. Between them, they hit 21 fours – five more than the entire India team – and two sixes. If that partnership did not seal the match, Amy Jones’s death hitting certainly did.
“We didn’t follow our plans,” admitted Harmanpreet Kaur at the post-match presentation. “[The] new bowlers will learn quickly before heading to the T20 World Cup. We had slight change in bowling department so we will come back stronger.”
It was not about the bowling alone. India lived up to Muzumdar’s assurance of aggressive batting, but not on his other aspect. “Fielding and fitness are of the highest priority,” he had said. “There is no compromise on fielding and fitness.”
Of course, it is unfair to expect a new coach to pull off a revolution at short notice. As he promised, there will be a “lot of camps” after the series as well as in the upcoming season, but all that is for later. Here, the Indian fielders missed chances – at least one of each of Wyatt and Sciver-Brunt – and made numerous fielding lapses.
“I was expecting good fielding, but when you are away from international game, pressure could get to you,” explained Kaur. It needs to be mentioned that neither Ecclestone (back from injury) nor Wyatt (who had opted out of the WBBL) seemed under pressure. They were as clinical as the rest of the XI.
At this point, however, it is important for the team management to back the squad. The plethora of all-rounders may not yield immediate results, but is likely to work out in the long run.
The bowling, on the other hand, seemed to lack a Plan B against two devastating batters. Inexperience is not something that can be addressed immediately: the reserves, Titas Sadhu and Minnu Mani, have six caps between them. However, if India are indeed keen on this bowling attack, it is important that they do not drop the bowlers after a couple of ordinary performances.
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