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Familar problems return to haunt Harmanpreet's Indian side

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Last updated on 09 Jan 2024 | 07:05 PM
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Familar problems return to haunt Harmanpreet's Indian side

Despite visible improvements, India’s problems remained familiar after a 2-1 series defeat at the hands of Australia

Harmanpreet Kaur’s poor run continues

In the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL), Harmanpreet Kaur was a sensation. She scored 281 runs in the competition, averaging a mighty 40 with a strike-rate of 135. All of those numbers are quite impressive. 

But when she dons the Indian blue, the reality is far from the expectations. On January 9 (Tuesday), there was a glorious opportunity for Harmanpreet to turn things around, walking in at 60/2. But in the space of just three overs, her stay at the crease ended prematurely when she walked back for a six-ball three. 

It was a cutter from Annabel Sutherland, which removed the Indian skipper. It wouldn’t have made the limelight if it had been a one-off incident. 

3, 6, DNB, 3, 5, 9, 0, DNB, 49, 44, 6, 9, 26 - is what Harmanpreet has managed to score across her last 13 innings in international cricket. The notable ones are the 3, 6, 6*, 9, 26, and 2 that she scored in her last six T20Is. Her inconsistent display will definitely hurt India more in the future. 

India’s batting order - a never-ending conundrum

You would probably solve the mystery surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, but there is a lesser chance of India finding their perfect batting order in the shortest format. Despite the plethora of talent at their disposal, more so than ever, India have struggled big time in the series to figure out their batting order. 

Whenever they are presented with an opportunity, they throw it away. One of the best finishers in the country, Pooja Vastrakar, who has time and again shown the ability to clear the boundaries with ease, only got two balls to bat in the innings, and even in those two deliveries, the right-hander smacked a six. While at 99/5, it was a wise decision to send Amanjot Kaur, it was perhaps not a wise decision from the management to hold back Pooja, denying her an opportunity to hit the long ball. 

This despite having a lengthened batting unit, which had Shreyanka Patil waiting in the wings. Maybe it is high time India figured out the batting roles for the different individuals. It is perhaps the right time for India to groom Vastrakar into a larger role than solely depending on the likes of Deepti Sharma to do a job. 

India’s bowling struggles in the middle-overs

India Women - 27 overs, 5 wickets, 7.2 ER and a bowling average of 39.4

Australia Women - 27 overs, 7 wickets, 6.7 ER and an average of 26.

Perhaps at the end of the series, the difference between the two sides was this. It was how they bowled in the middle-overs (7-15) and either continued applying pressure or made a comeback after getting hit in the powerplay. Chasing 148 in the third T20I, Australia were 54/0 in the powerplay and later continued their onslaught, scoring 63 runs in the next nine-over phase. 

Meanwhile, India were 51/1 in the powerplay but lost the plot completely in the middle-overs, where they lost four wickets for just 49 runs. It is a classic case of how India could learn from Australia to make a comeback in the contest. Even from a batting standpoint, India’s approach in overs 7-15 has been quite conservative, with a strike-rate difference of -9.3.

 

India went from 60/1 to 66/4 in no time. In overs 7-12, Australian bowlers only conceded 21 runs, picking up three wickets. Microscopically, only six runs were scored by India at the loss of three wickets. 

Was it the first time? Nope, India only had a strike-rate of 108 in the three-match T20I series against England. The cautious approach ended up costing them in that series as well. 

Phoebe Litchfield continues to reinvent herself

At this point, you can even ask Phoebe Litchfield to bowl, and she might turn up with a five-wicket haul. 

But jokes aside, Litchfield has had a real showing in the white-ball formats here in India. After she was considered a push-over following her Test outing, the left-hander grew from strength to strength in the tour, with some remarkable displays. 

In the three ODIs, the southpaw scored 78, 63 and 119 with the bat, all coming at the top of the order. But in the T20I setup, she had quite a different role, walking in the lower middle-order. And guess what? She aced that as well. 

Litchfield walked in at 33/4 in the first T20I, scoring a 32-ball 49 to take Australia to a competitive total of 141, with a strike-rate of 153.12. In the second clash, she walked out with the side needing 34 off 26 balls. It further reduced to 15 off 12, when she decided enough was enough, scoring 11 runs off Shreyanka’s over. 

Even in the third T20I, she scored a handy 13-ball 17, including a precision stroke between the cover region for a four. It was a tour where Litchfield’s white-ball stock grew multi-fold. Now, time for the WPL. 

Georgia Wareham - deal breaker?

After two scintillating cameos - 28* and 26* - there was speculation that Alana King would take a spot in the Australian playing XI. But those were just speculations, with the management instead relying on the services of Georgia Wareham, who, over the last year, has struggled with the ball. 

In her last tour against West Indies, Wareham had an economy rate of 7, 11.50 and 8 across the three innings while only picking up a solitary wicket. If you go back a little, she also struggled in the series against England, where she conceded 22 runs in two overs without a wicket. Even in the 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup final, her figures read 0/21 in two overs. Another indifferent series here could have easily cost her a spot. 

But then the leg-spinner turned and ripped India apart across 11.4 overs of pure spin bliss. While she was the only Australian bowler to pick up a wicket in the opening contest, where her figures were 1/20 in 3.4 overs, Wareham’s game grew from strength to strength. 

In the next two clashes, she emerged as the shining light, with four wickets, walking away with a series average of 12.20, her best since India visited Australia back in 2021/22. Combine that with her hitting ability, Wareham might just have sealed herself a confirmed spot on the plane to Bangladesh.

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