India vs Australia Preview: Can Raj and co. pull off a fast one against the invincibles?

India (R) and Australia (L) © Getty Images

The Australian team suffered a rather unexpected defeat against India in the semi-final of the 2017 edition of the World Cup in England. Harmanpreet Kaur played a knock for the ages and took her side to the final. Since that defeat, Australia have stamped their authority in the ODI format, losing only two games till the 2022 World Cup. Now, the two teams meet again in a World Cup match, this time at the iconic Eden Park in Auckland on March 19 (Saturday). 

What’s at stake? 

There is a bit more relying on this game for one team than the other. India are coming into this game facing a multitude of issues. Some of them have existed for sometime and the team management has not really found solutions, choosing to persist with the same players and hoping that it will work. The reality check could come in front of their eyes, a bit more visibly, considering that they will be against a far more competent team, at least on paper. 

What works for them is the fact that they are arguably the one team which has a chance against the Aussies. Realistically, they have beaten them twice in the last five years, no other team has been able to do the same. One of those wins came around six months ago, in Australia. There was another game as well, which they should have won, but didn’t. And, Australia is not a team which gets challenged often. If they are able to replicate their achievements from their time Down Under, India could keep their boat afloat.

What should worry them is their batting issues. The middle order has struggled and failed to apply themselves. India, unlike their opposition, seem to be far from perfect at this moment. 

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Australia’s batting has had its fair share of questions. Skipper Meg Lanning has a score, but is she at her absolute best? Is Alyssa Healy going through a rough patch? Is Ellyse Perry the same player she once was? Despite all of that, Australia are a threatening side which has more than one option to attack, and at times, it’s actually eleven. For instance, their top order hasn’t been at their best in the last two matches, but the middle order or their bowling saved the day. 

Its simple, there isn’t a template to beat Australia. But, there is one thing which can get the better of Australia, i.e, putting them under pressure. Now, the pressure will not be immense, given this is a league game and Australia are currently sitting on top of the points table. But, Lanning’s side doesn’t like dropping even one game. That attitude could get the better of them, but Raj and her side, at this moment, despite all their issues, look like one team to beat for the Aussies, which in itself is a compliment to any side of this generation. 

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All that build-up can end up being anti-climatic given that the weather around Auckland is not painting a good picture. If the game is shortened, it could well play into the hands of the Indian team. However it may turn out in the end, a match between these two nations is never anything less than a spectacle. 

What they said:

“I think we have been losing wickets back to back and that’s something which we as a batting unit want to address. I think 50 overs is all about partnerships. So we definitely want to work on it. That’s something which I’ll be really conscious about, that we don’t have to lose wickets back to back and develop a partnership from there. I think with one or two good partnerships, we’ll be able to post a total which will be a good total.”

  • Smriti Mandhana on India’s frequent batting collapses. 

“I think any game against India is a big one. We just came off the field there this afternoon. There’s a great aura about this ground and I think playing great teams in great venues is what this team is all about. And we’re very much looking forward to it. We had an excellent net session, some players in form, and look forward to taking them on.”

  • Matthew Mott on playing India at the Eden Park. 

Players to watch out for:

Meghna Singh: The right-arm medium pacer has taken six wickets in four games in this tournament. With each game, her effectiveness has increased and she has been getting enough swing, which could reach another level at the Eden Park, a venue conducive to swing bowling. 

Ellyse Perry: The veteran allrounder came into this World Cup under a bit of pressure, having not been at her best. But, in the last two matches, she has been at the forefront of the wins and the amount of swing she got in Wellington, going into a game in Auckland, is only encouraging signs for her and the Australian team. 

Predicted XI:

India: Smriti Mandhana, Yastika Bhatia, Mithali Raj (c), Deepti Sharma, Harmanpreet Kaur, Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad

Australia: Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wk), Meg Lanning (c), Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Ashleigh Gardner, Darcie Brown, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Megan Schutt