A light but persistent rain forced the Indian team to train indoors at the County Ground at Taunton on Wednesday, preparing for their second game against the West Indies at the ICC Women’s World Cup. They will not be short of confidence though, after their opening win against England and an outdoor net session on Tuesday.
The two teams come into this game having had contrasting openers. While India trounced England at Derby, the West Indies were walloped by defending champions Australia. The latter match was billed as a re-match of the WT20 final, which the had Windies won, but the only positive the Windies could draw from their opener was that they have already played a game at the County Ground at Taunton.
While England captain Heather Knight looked to Pakistan’s men’s side for inspiration after losing their opening match, the West Indies didn’t need to look that far. Coach Vasbert Drakes chose to draw inspiration from their own WT20 campaign in 2016.
“In the first warm up game in Chennai, we were beaten by Australia," he said, speaking exclusively to Firstpost. “We analysed what went wrong, we would have planned better, and we also executed better and we ended up winning that competition. It was similar to what happened here.”
He did reveal that the West Indies skipper, Stafanie Taylor, would bat at number three. She came in at number four against Australia, but only got 26 of the 50 overs to bat. “The captian has put her hand up and she said that she will bat at number three going forward. We have taken the proactive approach and taken care of that.”
Indian supporters would have been concerned about the fitness of Smriti Mandhana, who left the field after the game against England after diving on the boundary. She showed no signs of any trouble though, as she both fielded and batted in both outdoor practice sessions India have had since their last game.
For the rest of the squad, it is a matter of maintaining momentum. After a strong start against England, India will need to show that they can maintain that level against a team who are capable of upsetting any opposition on their day. Mithali Raj re-emphasised this point in the pre-match press conference. “We do understand that we have to play a few more games before we qualify for the semis. The next game is equally important," she said.
Taylor too expressed confidence that the tournament’s round robin format, with each team playing each other once meant that they have the time to mount a comeback. “Playing the first game, I would rather lose our first game than at the back end when you needed it (a win) the most," she said. “The last game was an example for us to move forward. We can come out fresh for tomorrow’s (Thursday's) game.”
Taylor, and star all-rounder Deandra Dottin, could both play their 100th ODIs on Thursday. Taylor is ranked as the top all-rounder in the world, and it is worth noting that she is on familiar territory: Taunton is home ground for the Western Storm, her franchise team in the English T20 competition.
India go into the tournament with some form, both in general and against the West Indies. India have played two tournaments this year, and won both. They also beat the West Indies at home 3-0 last November. The Windies though, have not played any international cricket since that loss to India in November.
Despite that loss, the Windies finished above India in the ICC Women’s Championship, helped by the fact that India ceded all their points against Pakistan, by choosing not to play due to the tensions between the two sides. The bottom-four finish has ironically been productive for India, who had to play the ICC qualifier, and thus come in with match practice behind them.
“Teams that play more cricket put themselves in a position of strength," said Drakes. But he maintained that his team had it in them to succeed despite the lack of international cricket. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. We hope by the end of this tournament, we will see a change around in terms of performance.”
Snehal Pradhan is a former India cricketer and now a freelance journalist. She hosts the series ‘Cricket How To’ on YouTube, and tweets @Snehal Pradhan.