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How can India stop the Aussie juggernaut?

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Last updated on 22 Feb 2023 | 01:43 PM
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How can India stop the Aussie juggernaut?

Will it be third time lucky for India, or will the Aussies complete the heartbreak hat-trick?

Ah shoot, here we go again. India are within touching distance of an elusive price, again.

And standing between them and glory is Meg Lanning’s Australia, again.

2020 T20 World Cup? ✖️

2022 Commonwealth Games? ✖️

Will it be third time lucky, or will the Aussies complete the heartbreak hat-trick?

From what we’ve seen thus far, everything points towards the latter. India enter the semis with a 3-1 record but the Women in Blue have been shaky. Not everything has clicked at once, meaning we’re yet to see a complete performance.

READ: Individual brilliance overshadows glaring issues in India's campaign

But Australia, like they always are in this format, have looked 'invincible'. Their ‘sternest’ test was against South Africa, and that was a contest which they ended up winning by six wickets with 21 balls to spare. 

They bulldozed New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and once again seem to be peaking at the right time, like they always do. Which begs the question: what can India do to beat this Australian side? How do you overcome an unstoppable force like this that’s lost ONE non super-over T20I in the last two years?

We’re here to explore what the non-negotiables, dos and don'ts are for India, and what all they could possibly do in order to maximize their chances of achieving the impossible.  

Intent and aggression versus spin — non-negotiableAmong the things that’ve been missing in this T20WC for India is their intent against spin. They are one of five teams to have struck at under 6 RPO against the slower bowlers and the only semi-finalist to have struck at under 6.5. Smriti Mandhana (SR 135.5) is in fact the only batter in the entire line-up to have struck at over 110 against the spinners; Jemimah (SR 88.4) and Harmanpreet (SR 84.1) have especially been slow.

Adopting a similar lethargic approach versus spin will prove to be fatal against Australia, who thus far have used spin exceptionally to control matches — their spinners’ ER of 5.5 and average of 15.6 is both the second-best in the competition. 

Let the Aussie spinners settle and the game is as good as done. The onus must be on the entire batting line-up collectively to be more proactive against spin. Harmanpreet after the encounter against Ireland put it specifically that India have to reduce the dot-ball percentage. Can they do that against spin?

Ditch playing catch-up with the bat against the AussiesOne of the few things that has clicked for India in this campaign is their batting at the death: in overs 16-20, they’ve scored at a rate of 9.6, which is the second best among all sides in the competition. Richa Ghosh (SR 183.3) and Jemimah (SR 195) have both ripped into bowling units once set.

However, equally, there’s also been a concerning pattern that’s developed: the team has tended to fall behind far too often. They were able to catch up against both Ireland (batting first) and Pakistan (chasing) but fell short against a much better side in England. Make of it what you will but Pakistan and Ireland ended the group stages with the second and third-worst economy at the death.

India deploying a similar strategy against Australia will be akin to shooting themselves in the foot. For the Aussies, as things stand, have the third-best economy (ER 6.5) in the competition, with Megan Schutt — 6 wickets @ ER 6.2 — arguably being the best seamer at the death in this T20WC.

Starting quicker and being aggressive up-front should hence be high on India’s agenda.  Jemimah (102.9), Harmanpreet (91.7) and Richa Ghosh (96.8) have all been slow starters (first 10 balls SR) and that will have to change come the semi-final.

Possible promotion with the bat for Deepti Sharma?Along the lines of the previous point, a promotion with the bat — possibly to No.3 or No.4 — for Deepti Sharma might not be the worst of ideas, for India to take the attack to the Aussies.

Deepti, who’s largely been under-utilized with the bat in this T20WC, has outstanding H2H records against two of Australia’s premier bowlers, Megan Schutt (53 off 32 balls) and Alana King (28 off 14 balls). 

Given Shafali too has a terrific record against Schutt (89 off 51 balls) and Darcie Brown (37 off 24 balls), India might very well be advised to deploy Deepti at No.3 and go all-out with the bat up-front.

Should the move click, it’ll then lay the perfect platform for Richa Ghosh, who herself has a remarkable record against the current Aussie attack, having amassed 91 runs overall off just 60 balls.  

India’s spinners cannot afford to have an off-day

Unexpectedly or otherwise, it has thus far largely been a tournament to forget for India’s premier spinners Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad, who have conceded at 7.84 and 7.80 respectively. Outside the West Indies game in which Deepti took 3/15, India’s spinners, in this T20WC, have gone at 7.80 an over while averaging 37.3.

Spinners being taken down directly contributed to the side’s defeat against England — they lost despite Renuka and Shikha taking 6/35 off their 8 overs — and the side will endure a similar fate against Australia should both Deepti and Rajeshwari not be at their very best.

The numbers are scary. You do not want to be a spinner and have an off day against this Aussie side.

Imagine you’re Deepti. You’re looking at Healy’s T20I record versus off-spin and you grin a bit, looking at that SR of 97. But that’s that. Every other batter in the Top 7 strikes at over 120, with four of them boasting a SR over 140.

Likewise you’re Rajeshwari and you’re sensing an opportunity looking at Lanning’s struggle versus left-arm spin (SR 94 and avg 15.8) but then everyone either strikes at over 135, averages over 50 or does both. 

That being said, looking at the tables above, one feels it’d still make sense for Harmanpreet to gamble with Deepti with the new ball, and introduce Rajeshwari as soon as Lanning walks in. 

Devika Vaidya out, fourth pacer in?Given India neither trust Devika Vaidya enough with the bat to play her in the Top 7, nor with the ball to give her the full quota of four overs, and given Australia’s dominance against spin has already been established (they’re equally dominant vs leg-spin and the spare bowler in the squad is another left-arm spinner), it might just make sense for the Women in Blue to go in with a fourth seaming option in the form of Anjali Sarvani.

The Aussies have no proven weakness against left-arm pace but Anjali’s presence will provide more variety, teeth and depth to the pace attack, and might just be a potential point of difference. 

The left-armer featured in the five-match T20I series in December where, despite occasionally being expensive, she provided a couple of valuable strikes up-front. Notably, Anjali has an impressive record vs Tahlia McGrath, having bowled 34 balls to the right-hander, conceded just 32 runs and dismissed her once.

India have reasons to be optimistic

Let’s be honest, when you’re up against a side that’s suffered one loss in two years and has won each of the last two T20 WCs, you’re really clutching at straws while trying to look at the ‘positives’. Still, silly or otherwise, India have a couple of reasons to believe they can get the job done

> India are the only side to have beaten Australia in T20Is since April 2021. 

Honestly, this is not a lot. Still, they’ve managed to do something that no other side has, in the last 23 months. Harmanpreet’s side, hence, need to believe that if anyone can stop this Aussie juggernaut, it’s them.

> India nearly beat Australia the last time these two sides met in a major tournament

That’s right. Australia might have won gold at the Commonwealth Games but in the final, it was India who made a meal out of the run-chase. At 118/2 chasing 162, the Women in Blue had the upper hand, but they capitulated towards the end. 

Making a meal is not something to look back on proudly, but looking from the ‘glass half full’ perspective, India need to remind themselves how they almost beat the Aussies in August. The team needs to believe that if they’re capable of grabbing the world champions by the scruff of the neck, they very much have it in them to finish the job off. 

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