Having put up an “up and down” show so far, India will need to play a perfect game against the mighty Australians in the Women’s World Cup in Auckland on Saturday if they want to bring their campaign back on track.
In the preceding series against New Zealand, Indian bowlers struggled to find rhythm but in the World Cup, the batting performance has been inconsistent with the team sitting at two wins and as many losses after four games.
With three leagues games remaining, India must gain consistency in all departments and maintain their place in the top four to qualify for the semifinals.
“If I had an explanation (for batting inconsistency), I would have definitely discussed in the dressing room. In the NZ series, our batters did well, the last four matches (in WC) the batting has not clicked as a unit and it is something we need work on,” said star opener Smriti Mandhana ahead of the Australia clash.
“I am confident tomorrow will be a perfect game for the batters. The bowlers are doing an amazing job for us, they need more support from batters.”
With four wins out of four games, Australia have looked unstoppable but if there is one team that can halt their juggernaut, it is India.
The Mithali Raj-led squad lost a closely contested series in Australia last year and ended Meg Lanning’s team 26-match winning streak.
Indian batters have come up with special individual performances but not fired as a group.
Mithali and all-rounder Deepti Sharma have exchanged places at number three in the first four games but both are yet to make notable contributions.
Smriti has shown top form and Harmanpreet being back among runs gives a massive boost to the team.
Smriti and Harmanpreet smashed centuries against the West Indies and shared a match-wining partnership. Former India captain Diana Edulji is of the opinion that now that Harmanpreet is back in form, she should bat higher than her current number five position.
More changes could be on the cards in the batting order for the Australia game as the earlier experiments have not yielded the desired results.
Veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, who will be playing her 200th ODI, has made an impact in all the games so far and will be expected to provide the early breakthroughs against the formidable Australians.
Left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad has been the leading wicket-taker for India with eight wickets.
India managed only 134 in the last game but the bowlers still managed to stretch the game and got six English batters out.
They will have to find a way to dismiss in-form opener Rachael Haynes who has amassed 277 runs at an average of 92. Most of the Australian players have contributed to the team’s unbeaten run in the tournament.
Ellyse Perry has starred both with bat and ball while spinners Alana King and Ashleigh Gardner have also been effective.
Both the teams have developed an intense rivalry over the years and Australia will be looking to avenge their semifinal loss in the 2017 edition when they take the field at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Teams (From):
Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nic Carey, Ash Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur (vc), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Jhulan Goswami, Pooja Vastrakar, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh Thakur, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav.
Match starts 6.30 am IST.