India vs West Indies: Will Mithali's India overcome West Indies' fury?
West Indies (L) India (R) © Getty Images
If you know that you have a bowling attack that is not likely to deliver most of the time when you take the field, what do you do?
Just bat, bat, and bat the opposition out of the game. But what if that adds to the pressure your batters are already living under and your batting, which is your core strength, runs out of gas as well?
The answer is that you will find yourself in India's shoes. Fiddling with the batting order and trying to fix something that ain't really broken, India are rejigging their batting order to make up for their frail bowling attack.
What's at Stake
That is the thing about a World Cup. It doesn't come around very often but when it does you better be prepared as it brings truckloads of pressure with it. And the sides that aren't confident of their combinations are the first ones to sense it and in a bid to do something smart, often end up playing in the hands of the opposition. World Cups are not the stage where sides should experiment because it ultimately leads to chaos and that's what was on show when India asked Yastika Bhatia to open at the expense of their regular opener Shafali Verma.
Verma, who as an opening batter has already showcased her pedigree at the international level, was dropped on Thursday after she got out for a duck in the game against Pakistan. In the five ODIs against the White Ferns, she scored 12, 24, 51, 0, 9. So, she was clearly not racking up a lot of runs but wasn't totally out of touch either.
With 41, 31, 19, and 0 in the fourth ODI, Yastika too, looked decent during the series but wasn't picked for the final ODI and couldn't find a place in India's tournament opener against Pakistan either. Ideally, when you have identified your best players for a tournament, then as a management you need to throw your weight behind them if they struggle to get going because they are the ones who will eventually win you the title.
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But that's clearly not what India are doing at the moment. There is one more thing that they are doing far from well and has been hurting them a lot and that's their fielding. They shelled quite a few chances in the game against the White Ferns and looked out of sorts.
On the contrary, Stafanie Taylor's side has hit the ground running and are getting better with every outing. They seem to have acclimatised themselves really well to the conditions in New Zealand and it is something that is working well in their favour.
While they are yet to play consistently well throughout the course of a game, they are coming up with individual brilliance that has proved enough to vanquish the opposition.
Hayley Matthews has been one of the star performers for the side so far and has impressed a lot with her breathtaking all-round efforts. As a batter, her ability to get behind the ball is something that sets her apart from the rest. She seems to have a lot of trust in her ability while batting and even a dry spell of a few overs doesn't fluster her. Even as a bowler, Matthews doesn't shy away from taking a challenge head-on and it is something that is rubbing off well on the whole side.
One thing that West Indies will look to improve in the games going ahead is their fielding. The Windies dropped three catches in their game against the defending champions and are nowhere close to where they should be in the field.
With two consecutive wins, Taylor's side has thrown the qualification race wide open and one more win in their kitty will take them within touching distance of a potential semi-final berth. On the other hand, India have looked ordinary in both their outings and need to make a strong comeback to take control of the situation.
What they said:
"Honestly, Shafali was not in the greatest form - when you see the last New Zealand series and we wanted to give a break to Shafali and bring in Yastika, who was consistent with her batting performances - so I don't think three left handers in a row makes a difference in every match - but going forward yes, we are going to look at it tactically, it gives an advantage to opponents to set up the plan easily and left -right batter combination allows us to get to a batting rhythm and bowling at left hander right hander combination - it's kind of difficult for bowlers also – going forward we will try and address this."
– Ramesh Powar on India's move of playing three left-handers at the top.
"Obviously, really good to get off to a good start. We're pumped to have won our first two games, especially against two highly ranked sides - two teams we haven't done well against in recent times. First time we’ve beaten Zealand In New Zealand, and the first time we’ve beaten England in an ODI World Cup - so we're really excited as a team. But we're not getting carried away. We know that we're going to have to keep fighting, it is going to get harder - our coaches have reminded us that, that we came into this World Cup pretty much under the radar. No teams are going to be focusing on us, so we know it's going to get tougher."
– Shakera Selman on the team's morale after their consecutive wins.
Players to watch out for:
Harmanpreet Kaur: Even though India were clinically beaten in the last game, it was Harmanpreet Kaur who looked her usual best and played some trademark strokes during her 71-run knock. India's top-order needs to take more responsibility for Kaur to express herself more freely down the order but that hasn't been the case so far. The way she was timing the ball and was keeping the New Zealand bowlers at bay against the run of play was a sight to behold, and you can expect her to pick it up from there in tomorrow's clash.
Hayley Matthews: You do not need to be the designated leader to lead your side. Leading by example is something that every player is entitled to and Hayley Matthews is doing that exceedingly well for the Windies at the moment. She has been contributing both with the bat and ball and is one of the major reasons why the team has notched up back to back wins and that too against formidable oppositions.
Head to head: Played 25 matches, India 20 – 5 West Indies
- With 696 runs in 21 matches, Mithali Raj has scored the most number of runs against the West Indies in one-day internationals.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Harmanpreet Kaur, Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Meghna Singh
West Indies: Deandra Dottin, Hayley Matthews, Kycia Knight, Stafanie Taylor (c), Shemaine Campbelle (wk), Chedean Nation, Chinelle Henry, Aaliyah Alleyne, Shamilia Connell, Anisa Mohammed, Shakera Selman