With a semifinal berth ticked right, the Indian women’s cricket team would look to address the problems with its batting line in the final Group A game against a deflated Sri Lanka in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Melbourne on Saturday (February 29).
An unbeaten Indian squad can make the most out of this opportunity when they face the Lankan women who are already out of the semifinal race following two losses so far.
The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side has been on a roll, having sealed their semifinal berth with wins over defending champions Australia, Bangladesh, and New Zealand.
While India beat hosts Australia by 17 runs in the tournament opener, they defeated Bangladesh by 18 runs before eking out a narrow four-run victory over the White Ferns on Thursday.
Entering the fourth group stage match on a high, the only expectation India will have is to enter the semis with a 4-0 lead over the other five teams in their league.
But all’s not pink and rosy for the Indian women. Their below-par show with the bat and failed performances from those experienced will be going into the business end of the tournament.
In all the previous three outings, India failed to put on big scores on the board. They managed just 132 runs against Australia, 142 against Bangladesh and 133 vs New Zealand.
India’s unpredictable middle-order has repeatedly squandered good starts to eventually settle for low scores.
In all the three matches, the bowling unit came to India’s rescue and the bailed the side out.
Heavily reliant on the brilliance of a 16-year-old Shafali Verma, the Indian middle-order has cut a sorry figure so far and it’s time senior pros like Harmanpreet and Veda Krishnamurthy step up and take the responsibility. Opener Smriti Mandhana too has failed to join the party so far.
Verma has been impressive at the top registering scores of 29, 39 and 46 for a total of 114 from three games. But it’s high time she converts the starts into big scores.
Skipper Harmanpreet has rued the inability of her batters to capitalise on good starts and cautioned them against making “silly mistakes” in the knock-out rounds.
“It’s a great feeling when your team performs day in day out. Still we made the same mistakes after a good first 10 overs, we got a good start but couldn’t carry the momentum. We can’t make silly mistakes with harder games coming up. Shafali (Verma) is giving us good starts, her initial runs are crucial for us,” Kaur had said.
The Indian bowling, however, has been phenomenal in the tournament so far and played a vital role in their smooth entry into the last-four round.
Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav has been the star performer for India, picking up eight wickets so far, including the match-winning effort of 4 for 19 against Australia.
She has been complemented well by the likes of Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Deepti Sharma and pacer Shikha Pandey.
Young Shafali was adjudged the player of the match for scoring a 34-ball 46 and the 16-year-old was elated with her performance.
“Feeling good, very happy with the performance, want to continue doing this. I waited for the loose balls and converted those,” said Shafali.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain), Taniya Bhatia, Harleen Deol, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Richa Ghosh, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav.
Sri Lanka: Chamari Atapattu (Captain), Harshitha Madavi, Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Ama Kanchana, Hansima Karunaratne, Achini Kulasuriya, Sugandika Kumari, Hasini Perera, Udeshika Prabodhani, Sathya Sandeepani, Anushka Sanjeewani, Shashikala Siriwardene, Dilani Manodara, Umesha Thimashini.
Match starts at 09:30 AM IST.
(With inputs from agencies)