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How to keep India Women's top-five batters quiet in T20Is

Last updated on 05 Dec 2023 | 01:05 PM
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How to keep India Women's top-five batters quiet in T20Is

Harmanpreet, Mandhana, Jemimah, Shafali and Richa need to rectify some flaws if India want to compete with the top sides

The 2024 Women’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh is around 10 months away and the three-match T20I series against England, starting on Wednesday (December 6), and Australia will provide India with a golden opportunity to test their strengths and weaknesses against two heavyweights of women’s cricket.

There have been a couple of new inclusions in the Indian T20I set-up but the core, especially in the batting department, remains the same. Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh will be expected to carry the batting unit. However, they will have to rectify some flaws if they want India to compete with the top sides.

Mandhana needs to get better vs offspinners

The elegant left-hander is India’s best batter in white-ball cricket but has a glaring weakness against offspinners. For India to compete with the likes of Australia and England, Mandhana will have to score runs consistently. However, the opposition has kept her quiet by bowling off-spin. Since 2022, the 27-year-old has an average of 21.1 and a strike rate of 117.1 against off-spinners, clearly her worst against any bowling type.

She has gotten out to them ten times in this time period, with eight of those coming in the first six overs. There’s one more issue. Mandhana only has a strike rate of 107.1 against left-arm spin after the powerplay, meaning it’s not too difficult to plan against her. Charlie Dean and Heather Knight are the two off-spinners in the England set-up, but they are not people who have troubled her in the past. Her record against Sophie Ecclestone is also super impressive (average 94, SR 164.9). Hence, there might be a case where Mandhana can attack the English spinners and improve her numbers and reputation against them. 

What’s more, the Wankhede Stadium won’t have much on offer for spinners, but that won’t be the case in Bangladesh. The surface will be more spin-friendly, and there will be better offspinners to challenge Mandhana.

Bowl spin or short to Shafali

If Mandhana struggles against off-spinners, Shafali Verma struggles against all kinds of spinners. The 19-year-old dasher has an average of 37.58 and a strike rate of 144.78 against pace in this format, but those numbers drop to 15.87 and 112.39 against spin, respectively. Moreover, that strike rate has come down to 104.17 in the last two years. That’s not it. We also know how vulnerable she is against short deliveries, having gotten out ten times while playing the pull shot. 

Shafali has a tendency to get into an awkward position while facing short deliveries and often ends up playing a false shot. Her record against England is also terrible (148 runs @ 14.8 and a strike rate of 101.4). Now, you can’t expect her to play big knocks, but would want her to play those game-changing cameos in the powerplay. Her SR (118.87) in the powerplay since 2022 isn’t inspiring, and that is where she will have to step up. A quick 30-40 in the powerplay would set up the game perfectly for the likes of Mandhana and others.

Jemimah can’t be too slow in powerplay

The 23-year-old doesn’t have a notable weakness but often ends up being too watchful at the start of her innings. Since 2022, the right-handed batter has a strike rate of just 80.93 in the powerplay. Now, she can always make up for her slow start, but these are the things that hurt India against big teams like Australia and England. 

Jemimah has a strike rate of more than 120 against all bowling types except left-arm spin (93.1). She doesn’t get out to them too often but struggles to score runs at a good pace. Jemimah has a ball/boundary of 9.5 against left-arm spin, and someone like Ecclestone could trouble her in the series. Her role would still be to bat long, but if she can find a way to get that SR slightly up in the first six overs, it would do India the world of good.

Harmanpreet is a different case

While the aforementioned three have some trouble against spin, the Indian skipper doesn’t enjoy facing fast bowlers, at least, that’s what the numbers suggest. In the last two years, Harmanpreet has an average of 45.5 and a strike rate of 123.25 against spin. The corresponding numbers against pace are 25.63 and 107.63, respectively. If we remove the time frame, the right-hander has an SR of just 97.29 against pace in T20Is.

Hence, this has been a problem for her since the start. Harmanpreet has her trademark sweep shot that helps her dominate spin, but such is not the case against fast bowlers. She has had trouble with deliveries moving away, against which she averages just 11.8 in her T20I career. 

Richa also struggles against offies

It’s surprising to see that the wicketkeeper-batter has a strike rate of just 98.6 against off-spinners in T20Is. She has gotten out to them six times and averages 11.5. Her numbers in the first innings are also not great. She averages 18.93 compared to 44.14 at a strike rate of 140.4 in the second essay.

One thing the management can do is give her more batting time. Richa has an average of 40.16 in the middle overs (7-15), which tells you she is not some random lower-order slogger. She has faced more than ten deliveries in 19 innings, and only five times her strike rate has been less than 130.

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