Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022: Revamped India must build on positives, need to forget defeat to Australia

Faced with the formidable challenge of completing the highest successful chase in an ODI World Cup to book their ticket to the semi-finals, Australia came out all guns blazing, registering a six-wicket win over India to qualify for the last four stage of the ongoing Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022.

Australia’s record chase and the convincing big-margin win, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of the match let alone the fact that the pitch at Eden Park was very well-suited to batting and offered very little assistance to the bowlers.

While Indian bowlers were off-color at Eden Park, the batters returned to form. AFP

The biggest story, from the Indian point of view, was how their top and middle order finally found form and laid the foundation for a solid total that forced Australia into producing the highest chase in the ICC event’s history.

The consistent top-order failure and the inconsistency of the batting unit as a whole had proved to be India’s bane in the World Cup so far. Against the intimidating Australians, another batting collapse would not have just dented their semi-final chances but would have further harmed the confidence of the Indian batters and demoralized them.

Rather, India’s revamped batting unit gave a good account of themselves, and despite the defeat marched ahead with a lot of positives.

New combination clicks

The fact that Indians keep changing their batting combinations in a high prestige tournament puts a question mark on the management and it is the batters who deserve to take the entire credit for scoring good runs against Australia. Shafali Verma was back in the team as an opener to partner Smriti Mandhana. No 3 Deepti Sharma was made to sit on the bench, with Yastika Bhatia taking her spot and Mithali Raj dropping to No 4. Harmanpreet Kaur was at No 5. And India finally got to the combination that they were expected to play from the start of the tournament.

The impact player, Shafali, was brought in to unsettle the opening Australian bowlers and though she hit a six and four to get off the blocks, the experiment was shortlived. India had both their openers back in the hut by the first six overs. They were 39/2 at the end of the powerplay – the ominous signs of another batting collapse.

It was not to be.

The 21-year-old Yastika rose to the occasion and batted with maturity belying her age to grind out 58 off 83. The youngster played a perfect foil to skipper Mithali who struck her first fifty of the tournament, scoring 68 off 96, to lay the foundation for a late flourish.

It wasn’t smooth sailing for Yastika and Mithali from the start though. They only put up 16 runs in their first five overs batting together before a 16-run over from Ellyse Perry in which the bowler conceded 10 from wides helped the Indians find their scoring touch. As they grew in confidence and their rhythm got better, Yastika and Mithali started making full use of the batting-friendly conditions and the short boundaries at the Eden Park

Together, the duo stitched a 103-run stand – the highest third-wicket stand partnership against Australia in World Cups. The highlight of the partnership was their proactive running between the wickets, late cuts shots that frustrated the spinners and how they combined caution with aggression. Once into their grooves, the pair never shied away from playing their shots.

India’s ambition to put up a challenging total saw them depart to the pavilion but the transition was quick and effective. Harmanpreet struck her third fifty of the tournament and amassed quick runs, 26 off 22 and 64 off 46 with Richa Ghosh and Pooja Vastrakar, respectively. India finished on 277/7 with their No 3, 4 and 5 making fifties for the first time in a World Cup match.

Bowlers disappoint

A good day in the office certainly for the batters but bowlers didn’t have much joy. Australia bat deep and are loaded with gun batters. Their application in the middle was admirable but their job was made easy by the Indian bowlers and their lack of discipline.

The pacers erred in line and length, bowling too full or short. A lot of room was offered to the Australian batters on the offside as they made merry with cut shots and cover drives. 44 out of top-scorer Meg Lanning’s 97 runs came in the backward point area. The extra cover region was the most productive area for opener Alyssa Healy who was the second-highest run-getter for Australia with a knock of 72.

The inconsistency from bowlers led to a lack of pressure on the Australian batters and the job for the Indians was only made difficult by the decision to drop Deepti and play a bowler less.

With two 100-run partnerships in their innings, Australia were always in control of the chase and though there was late drama, the six-wicket win margin is proof of the gulf in class between the two sides on the day.

If it is any consolation, India shouldn’t really bother a lot about the bowlers having an off day. They have been India’s strength so far in the tournament and there’s every chance they will be back to their best in the next game. The bad news, however, is that India have just two more games left and winning both of them may not be enough to reach the semi-finals. Still, giving their best is all they can do. With their batting coming around against Australia, India need to quickly shrug off the loss, learn from their mistakes and build on the positives from the match.

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