Updated: November 17, 2018 4:07:52 am
Here is India’s route to the T20 World Cup semi-final in the West Indies, their first in eight years: Thrashed New Zealand by 34 runs, battered Pakistan by six wickets and smacked Ireland by 52 runs. Except for fleeting suspense against Pakistan, the rest of the victories were achieved without breaking much sweat, which was exactly what their coach Ramesh Powar had demanded before they embarked to the Caribbean Islands.
“Before coming into the World T20 the coach had told us that you have to dominate each and every match. That is the only mindset which we had shown in the last three matches, and I don’t think it will change in the next match,” recounted vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, who herself has embodied the approach with breezy 33 and 26, against Ireland and Pakistan.
‘That’ next match, though inconsequential as far as semifinal prospects are concerned, is against the mighty Australians, the toughest team in the tournament and three-time champions, boasting some of the most vaunted names in women’s cricket such as Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry. But Mandhana asserts the team is not frazzled by their opponents’ pedigree. “I think we will be looking at it as a match only and not like we need to be on the top of the table of this group,” she said.
She though feels the team needs to produce a sterner show than they had against Ireland, how much ever flattering the scorecard reads. “I felt our batting could have been better. But bowling and fielding I think we are really good, and we dominated the opposition. I didn’t think that 140 was good enough because in T20s you can’t keep thinking about the wicket and the outfield because it’s such a fast game,” she said.
“So I think we were aiming at 165 to 170, but unfortunately we could not do that,” she lamented.
The turgidly slow strip too played a part in making batting look laborious, something which Mithali Raj too pointed out. “The wicket was quite challenging. The pitch was soft and playing slower bowlers was difficult. Hopefully we can get a better pitch next game,” she opined. It was one of those wickets that have come to symbolise the decay of West Indies cricket, slow turners instead of lightning fast ones that had coincided with their halycon days.
But fortunately for India, Mithali has been in exceptional form, shrewdly gauging the nature of the pitch and batting accordingly. She hardly looked to manufacture big shots or hit the ball too hard, rather she threaded the gaps efficiently, nudged a single there, tapped a double here, thus furnishing a slow-wicket template. The confidence rubbed onto Mandhana, who had been struggling before the tournament. “It’s fun batting with her. But I think both have different mindsets to go about their game, and we just discussed about the wicket and the bowlers, and yeah, we just give enough freedom to each other,” said Mandhana.
On her part, Mithali was ever so supportive of her struggling opening partner. “When someone (Smriti) is going through a lean patch, you need to give them positivity. She is such an important player for the team, and when she comes good she’s someone capable of winning matches on her own,” said Mithali, with whom Mandhana added 73 and 67 in the last two games, laying a stable foundation for big-hitters like Harmanpreet and Jemimah Rodrigues to pursue big strokes.
At least now, they have muted their critics who had been baying for their blood after they lost to Bangladesh, in a low-scoring thriller, in the Asia Cup T20 final in June “It means a lot because after the Asia Cup final, a lot of things happened back home. Everyone had actually thought that we wouldn’t even make it to the semi-finals because we did not even win the Asia Cup. We are such a good team, we have such good youngsters that we needed to step up our game in every match, and we had done exactly that. Al 15 of us actually went back after Asia Cup, worked hard on whatever they felt we lacked in the team,” she explained.
Skipper Harmanpreet, though, calls for further improvement: “It’a a short format, so sometimes when your main bowler doesn’t bowl according to plan, you need other bowlers to bowl. That’s why Jemmy and I bowled . To win the WT20, we need to be aggressive on the field. Against Ireland, we didn’t bat according to our plans. Same with the bowlers, so need to improve in those areas.”
She charts out the plan to beat Australia: “Against Australia, we need to be aggressive. If you want to win against them, you need to be aggressive. There are no two ways about it.” A victory against them would put in perspective their real mettle, whether they are just bossing middling teams or are capable of scalping big fishes.
For all the latest Sports News, download Indian Express App