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WWT20: Powerhouse Australia Will Provide India’s Sternest Examination Yet

Sarah Waris |Cricketnext | Updated: November 17, 2018, 2:49 PM IST
WWT20: Powerhouse Australia Will Provide India’s Sternest Examination Yet

As Jemimah Rodrigues got close to a slower delivery by Bismah Maroof, making good use of her feet to lift it over cover in India’s clash with Pakistan, the fearlessness that has come to define the team in the last few months was all too visible. Just a few overs earlier, the 18-year-old had nearly holed out to long-off, after she lifted the ball with the turn with the intention of going square over cover.

However, as she mistimed the delivery, one could sense the agitation within the teenager, who was eager to correct the shot. And did so successfully off the same bowler a few overs later.

This never-say-die approach has defined India’s campaign at the World T20 so far. They have looked promising on occasions, ordinary on others and simply excellent for long periods. However, the attitude of fighting it out till the very end has ensured that with three wins in as many games, they have entered the semifinals for the first time since 2010.

With a game left in the league stage against powerhouse Australia, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led team would be eager to polish off their flaws before they play the semifinal.

Mithali’s Batting Dilemma

Mithali Raj

Where does Mithali Raj bat? While the veteran became India’s leading run-scorer in T20Is, male or female, questions are still doing the rounds about her ideal position. In the first game against New Zealand, she was pushed down to number 8, as Taniya Bhatia opened the innings with Smriti Mandhana. Though the former skipper did not bat in the match, courtesy Harmanpreet’s sensational ton, it was quite clearly not a position that suited her style of play.

For the next two games, Raj has returned to a more familiar spot, opening the innings against Pakistan and Ireland. While she looked confident in the game against the arch-rivals whilst chasing 134, it was when the team had to put on a total against the Irish that she appeared out of sorts to begin with, taking 15 balls for her first 4 runs. Though her knock of 51 was crucial in the team putting on 145 on the board, the fact that she hit only four boundaries and a six with a strike-rate of 91.07 even as wickets kept falling at regular wickets, indicated that she is more suited to be the anchor rather than the aggressor.

Ahead of the clash with Australia, who boast of a strong bowling unit, Raj’s experience will be desperately needed, whether India are batting first or chasing down a total.

The Untested Middle-Order

Veda Krishnamurthy

How prepared are the other players in the middle-order? The story of India’s batting thus far has revolved around the twin fifties by Raj and the ton by skipper Harmanpreet against the White Ferns, with a captivating knock by Rodrigues in the same game. However, the others are yet to pull their weight. Smriti Mandhana’s assured starts have not resulted in a big score, while Veda Krishnamurthy has not yet shown the range of strokeplay she is capable of. Bhatia has not batted after her opening stint.

Though the players have all gelled well together and have produced match-winning knocks in the recent past, especially in the series against Sri Lanka, playing Australia in a world event is a whole different ball-game and the Indian batsmen will be keen not to make the job of the bowlers any tougher than it already is.

Spinners Continue Consistent Showing

Poonam Yadav - Chamari Atapattu

While the batting unit has been blow-hot-blow-cold, the bowlers have risen to the occasion quite well so far, foxing rivals with tossed up deliveries, slower leg-break bowling and luring them with flight. While Poonam Yadav was touted as the go-to spinner in the tournament - and has picked six wickets already - Radha Yadav, Deepti Sharma and Dayalan Hemalatha, who made her debut against the Kiwis, have all come together after an indifferent first game to stall the flow of runs.

With Harmanpreet going for 10 runs in her 4 overs in India’s last game, India have a variety of slow bowlers in their arsenal, and with the Aussies succumbing to New Zealand’s off-spinner Leigh Kasperek in their last game - she picked up 3 wickets while conceding 25 runs – it is an area to exploit.

The ploy to play just one fast bowler throughout the tournament - Mansi Joshi replaced Arundhati Reddy against Ireland - has worked on the slow and low Guyana track, but with the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at Antigua, the venue for the semis likely to assist the seamers more, India might just be tempted to rework their strategy.

However, as far as the clash against Australia goes, the Indians will be well-aware of the fire-power that the team possesses. They have been unable to get across the Aussie unit even once this year, losing twice in the T20Is and thrice in the ODIs at home, and with world-class players throughout the line-up, they surely start favourites.
First Published: November 16, 2018, 8:08 PM IST

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