India have now lost five consecutive Twenty20 Internationals after they went down to England by 41 runs in the first of the three-match series in Guwahati, and yet again it was the batting that failed. India are now one loss away from equalling their streak of most consecutive losses in the format. They had gone down to Pakistan, England and Windies in the World Twenty20 2016 at home, and then been beaten in a bilateral series against Windies in Vijayawada. Even then the batting was the issue. So, in a nutshell nothing much has changed between then and now, and if the management has been unable to notice these concerns then the problem is more deep-rooted than what is visible to the eyes.
After opting to field first in the first T20I, India could have restricted England much below 160 had Arundhati Reddy not given away five fours to Heather Knight in the 18th over. Despite that, such targets are expected to be chased down in the modern era.
Let’s examine the last five defeats. In the World T20 semifinal against England last November, India were well placed at 89 for 2 in 13.4 overs before losing their last eight wickets for 23 runs. In the first T20I in New Zealand this year, India’s chase of 160 looked under control when Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues were in the middle. Once they fell in a space of two runs, India were left with 57 needed off 47 balls. A more vibrant batting unit would have easily taken control, but India were bowled out for 136 in 19.1 overs.
Mandhana and Rodrigues set the platform for a big total with a 63-run stand in the second T20I, but India could get only 135 for 6 and New Zealand chased down the target off the game’s last ball. India’s chase of 162 in the third T20I got messed up in the second half. The margin of defeat could have been more than two runs had Mithali Raj, returning to the side after being benched for three games, not made an unbeaten 24 off 20 balls from No 5.
There was no pretence of fight at all in Guwahati. On a rare occasion where Mandhana and Rodrigues failed together, getting out off successive deliveries in the fourth over, India became 23 for 3. At that stage, the equation was 138 runs needed off 99 balls. Difficult but achievable. It was a wonderful chance for Veda Krishnamurthy to re-establish her credentials after being dropped for the tour of New Zealand. Her responsibility doubled after Mithali got out in the ninth over, but she could not take charge. She found the boundary twice, but the inability to rotate the strike by someone who has been around for eight years was concerning. In other words, the batting unit’s lack of confidence to make up for the gap between balls left and runs required is evident, and it is leading to rash shots being tried early.
In contrast to the Indian batters, Tammy Beaumont, the England opener, who made 62 off 57 balls before getting out in the final over, showed great application. She played second fiddle to Danielle Wyatt, her opening partner, in the first half of the innings, but never hesitated to dispatch the bad balls to the fence. Their stand of 89 off 69 deliveries consisted of only 22 dots. It meant that they not only manipulated the field to find the boundaries, but also rotated the strike in a way that left India clueless.
“It was just a case of we playing to our strengths. Danni and I hit in quite different areas, so we complement each other really well. It was just a case of sticking to our strengths and trying to play the right shots,” Beaumont said of her partnership with Wyatt. “We were just trying to play smart. A couple of times (we had fun with the field). A couple of times it came off, but a couple of times it didn’t. It’s nice when it comes off, make them to make field changes and you are just backing your strength.”
The issue with Indian batters is that very few realise what their strength is when they are put under pressure. It would be unfair to completely blame the players because they are hardly exposed to T20 cricket of the highest level. Beaumont, for example, plays in the Kia Super League, and many of the England players also feature in the Women’s Big Bash League. The standards in those two tournaments is much superior than the Indian domestic T20 competition where the average innings total this season has been less than 100.
Also in the Indian tournament, the international regulars like Mandhana hardly get to play because of their other commitments. So, the knowledge exchange between rookies and experienced players is bare minimum. It hampers the overall growth of the players, and they find it challenging to cope up with international quality when they are given their India cap as was seen during Priya Punia’s three T20Is in New Zealand.
Most of India’s major T20 wins in recent past have come on the back of individual brilliance, and that makes it easier for the opponent to study the key players and plan against them. Beaumont did not hesitate to say in the press conference that Mandhana’s wicket was the key in the chase. That reduces the margin for error significantly for the rest of the batters in the line-up and also increases the pressure.
India have little time to address this issue ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia early next year, but the team management would have been really impressed with the way Shikha Pandey bowled. After Jhulan Goswami’s retirement, Shikha had not played a single T20I till this game. Carrying the confidence from her good show in the ODI series, she bowled with a newfound vigour, conceding only one boundary in her four overs. With India’s young pace bowlers still not completely ready, Shikha could play a crucial role in the format in the immediate future.
India would hope that the batting and the bowling comes good together in the must-win second T20I.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
The 28-year-old Bengaluru-based cricketer paid an emotional tribute to her sister and mother, who succumbed to the deadly virus in a span of two weeks.
Catch the LIVE score from Day 3 of the second Test between Zimbabwe and Pakistan in Harare
Tendulkar said a player is bound to go through ups and downs but it is important to accept when one is feeling low.