For a brief period on 2 July, more people were tuned in to watch the Indian women’s team’s match against Pakistan than Virat Kohli and Co taking on West Indies in the fourth ODI. It might have been short-lived as both matches overlapped for only around an hour or so, but the fact that viewers were tuning in to watch the Indian women play against Pakistan was a telling factor that the women’s game had generated interest, at least amongst the cricket romantic.
Perhaps it was spurred by nationalistic fervour and the fact that Team India were undefeated at the World Cup till that point. The women’s game has evolved dramatically over the past few years. Right until a couple of years ago, the gap between the top teams —Australia, England and New Zealand — and India was significant. However, that has narrowed considerably.
The emergence of prodigious talents such as batswoman Smriti Mandhana, all-rounder Deepti Sharma and pace sensation Mansi Joshi, along with the experience of Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur have ensured India is catching up with rest of the world.
There was clear evidence that India have bridged the gap when they toppled England in their opening game. However, after winning four consecutive matches, the team hit a roadblock against South Africa, losing by 115 runs. India now have the tough challenge of having to win at least one of the remaining matches and that too against world champions Australia and New Zealand, the team ranked third in the world.
As evident by their opening match against England, India are capable of beating both teams but statistically there were some areas that they need improve dramatically in if they are to compete with elite teams.
The most glaring issue is that the top order of India plays far too many dot balls. India captain Raj alluded to the fact that apart from the opening game there hasn’t been a substantial opening stand. But in reality, the top five Indian batters have cumulatively faced close to 40 overs in four of the five matches and India have only crossed 250 on one instance.
India’s dot ball percentage is at 60%. Comparatively, Australia’s is at 48%, England at 47% and New Zealand at 51%.
One of the prime culprit is opener Punam Raut. The right-hander has only managed to score 110 off the 292 balls she has faced at the World Cup. Deepti, who has played the most number of balls amongst the Indian top-order batswomen, has a dot-ball percentage of 59%.
Deepti has hit more flowing drives and punches off the back-foot than any other player in the tournament. But she needs to learn to thread the tight off-side field employed against her or the art of dropping the ball at her feet and running quick singles.
Placement is something that comes naturally to a player and as her career progresses she will learn to do it instinctively. But when it comes to playing with soft hands, it is a skill that Deepti and other members of the Indian batting order need to learn quickly if India are to progress in the tournament.
Even the experienced Mithali and Harmanpreet have dot balls percentages of 56% and 59% respectively. The only exception to this rule is stylish left-hander Mandhana, who has scored from 54% of the balls she had faced. Her dot-ball percentage in akin to the likes of Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Suzie Bates and Heather Knight.
India’s worries are compounded further by the lack of boundaries compared to the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England. The Indian women have only managed to hit 106 boundaries so far in the tournament while England and Australia have racked up 163 and 129 respectively.
This statistic becomes graver when you take into consideration that India, England and Australia have roughly faced the equal amount of balls in the tournament, 1,413, 1,380, 1,367 respectively. Yet, India trail the World No 1 and 2 teams in boundaries scored, amount of sixes hit, scoring balls and number of twos and threes.
Reducing the amount of dot balls they play, rotating strike by running hard between the wickets and converting singles into twos is an aspect of the game that India are still lagging behind. The power-hitting side of the game is still evolving and apart from Harmanpreet, the others tend to struggle to muscle the ball a long way. New Zealand and Australia are blessed to have the genetics to smash the ball over the fence, but Indians perhaps need to be more innovative and play the paddle sweeps or the reverse hits, to ensure more boundaries are struck.
India’s bowling, on the other hand, seems to be prospering and meeting the elite levels. Variation in the spin department has ensured India have managed to keep a lid on the opposition stroke-makers. But to be fair, the pitches have suited them slightly with the ball gripping the pitch at latter stages of the game. The level of bowling is definitely up to world standards but they will be put to the test by Australia and New Zealand. Then only will be really know how far the bowling has to advance to match the top teams.
To be fair, the spinners and the fast bowlers have done a commendable job but with India taking on Australia and New Zealand in the coming week, it needs to address the batting concerns if they are to progress to the semi-finals and beyond.
Updated Date: Jul 11, 2017 12:05 PM