Mithali Raj, India’s ODI captain, has called for greater accountability from the opening pair of Smriti Mandhana, especially, and Shafali Verma after the two fell for poor scores in India’s nine-wicket loss in the first ODI in Mackay. While a better start – the pair fell in quick succession after adding 31 – might have helped India put up more than the 225 for 8 they managed, better bowling could have made things tough for Australia in their chase. They eventually got to their target in just 41 overs, and Raj was unhappy about the performance of the spinners as well.
Opening Partnership Problem and More Responsible Batting Needed
“The opening partnership – if they can give us a good start, clearly the middle order can take the momentum from there,” Raj told reporters after the match. “But if you lose wickets, you actually have to build an innings in the first ten overs. Smriti [16 in 18 balls] has been on the international circuit for a while, so we would expect some runs from her.
“When you know the sort of batting line-up the Australians have, anything closer to 250 is what we were looking at, but losing two wickets, especially batters like Smriti and Shafali [8 in 10 balls], in the powerplay itself, it was important the middle order starts to compensate for that and build a partnership there. And that’s what we did with Yastika [Bhatia, the debutant, who scored a 51-ball 35], but then again, we didn’t get enough partnerships in the lower-middle order.
“You always bat according to the situation. Of course, the players need to play shots, but it doesn’t mean you be reckless. We need to now actually have partnerships rather than thinking about fearless cricket. The girls need to get down to developing some partnerships in the middle and that will definitely give them confidence at some point to play fearlessly.”
In a post-match interview with the host broadcaster on Tuesday, Raj made it clear that “when you’re put in to bat, you expect an opening partnership of minimum 50 runs.” Against a well-rounded Australia attack, India had just one 50-plus stand, between Bhatia and Raj, who added 77 for the third wicket, with the captain continuing to play the anchor as she went on to score her fifth straight fifty in the format.
“Yastika – she had a very good [preparatory] camp in Bangalore. She was among runs and she continued that even in the practice game, whatever little she scored she was quite impressive and that is why without a doubt we picked her today in place of Harman [Harmanpreet Kaur] because Harman was injured,” Raj said. “The order we sent her [in] she was quite positive out there to score runs.”
Speaking about her own performance
On her own performance – a 59th ODI fifty but at an incredibly poor strike rate (she took 12 balls to get off the mark and 92 deliveries to reach her half-century) – Raj said, “It is always in my mind to improve on that [strike rate] aspect. I wouldn’t say I definitely don’t think about it, but it’s not something that crosses my mind when I walk in to bat.
“I’ve always felt no matter how many runs I score there’s always some room for improvement. I want to evolve as a player, too. I know I’ve been scoring runs but it isn’t enough for the team to win, so there’s always room for improvement.”