India look to address fielding issues, Aussies promise to be ruthless | Cricket

Having played three T20Is, two Tests and three ODIs in a span of 28 days, the India women’s cricket team will begin its next assignment at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Friday – a three-match T20 series against Australia. For a team that hardly has such a packed schedule, it’ll surely be a test of endurance. But with no international cricket lined up for them until the T20 World Cup in September, Harmanpreet Kaur and Co will be determined to make the most of this opportunity.

India Women during a training session.(PTI)

It wasn’t long ago that India were enjoying an unprecedented high after beating England and Australia in consecutive one-off Test matches. All three departments of the team remained clinical to deliver two historic wins. But what followed was an ODI series sweep for reigning white-ball champions Australia, and it revealed a number of areas that the hosts need to address.

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In terms of batting, Jemimah Rodrigues’s performance across formats has been a positive, but the lean form of skipper Kaur and opener Shafali Verma is a concern. Although Richa Ghosh impressed in the ODI series after being promoted to No. 3, the move exposed a familiar problem for India – a lack of power-hitters down the order.

“I’m getting starts, it’s not like I’m not scoring runs,” said Harmanpreet on Thursday. “I’m trying to convert them into big knocks but I feel luck is a big factor as well. If you see a few of my dismissals, it’s not like I played a bad shot or they bowled a particularly good ball. They were very weird ways of getting out. I’m trying my level best to gain confidence and not feel out of form.”

Across the six white-ball games over the past month – three T20Is against England and three ODIs against Australia – India bowled first on four occasions and leaked an average of 16.5 runs in the last over of the innings. The hosts handed debuts to a number of spinners, with Shreyanka Patil and Saika Ishaque showing promise, but will need the pacers to take more responsibility while closing out innings.

However, by far the biggest issue for the Indian team right now is their fielding. They dropped as many as 10 catches in the ODI series against Australia, most of which were straight-forward chances, and left a lot to be desired in terms of ground fielding as well. The likes of Jemimah, Shreyanka and Amanjot Kaur have tried to raise the bar but as things stand, Harmanpreet has way too many players to hide in the field.

“We’ve been talking about fielding and fitness for a while and have been working really hard on them,” said Harmanpreet. “The best thing now is that we have a regular support staff. Our fielding coach Munish (Bali) sir should be given some time. He’s a very experienced coach and has worked with some good players. He’s trying his level best but it’s tough to get results in just a month. We’ve fielded well in patches but the mistakes have been more, which is something we’ll try to rectify. He (Bali) is working on each and every player.”

India have made just two changes in their squad from the ODIs, with Kanika Ahuja and Minnu Mani coming in for Harleen Deol and Sneh Rana, and will be keen to gain stability and confidence in the T20 series. Going by their home record in the shortest format against the Aussies, though, it’s Alyssa Healy and Co who remain the firm favourites.

“It’ll be great practice to play against a team like India but at the same time, we want to win all three games,” said Australian leg-spinner Georgia Wareham. “We’ll take some momentum from the ODI series, and it’ll be good to see where we’re at heading before the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. In our meetings, we speak a lot about being ruthless. When we’re on top, we like to keep at it and not let it (momentum) slip. The way that India play is very exciting, it’s a really tough matchup for us given the power and variety they have at the top of the order for bowlers. It’ll be a really exciting series.”

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