India’s recent 4-1 loss in the One-Day International (ODI) series against South Africa might have come as a surprise to many. After all, they are the defending finalists in the ODI World Cup and also made it to the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup just 12 months ago. Add to that the fact that, before this series, the Women in Blue had won their last six ODI series.
So, what went wrong for Mithali Raj and Co. against the Proteas? Here, we look at some of the possible explanations.
LACK OF MATCH PRACTICE
After the end of the aforementioned series, head coach WV Raman remarked: "In terms of what transpired in this series, it's very simple: the girls lacked the game time and they are obviously short in terms of the mental stamina and cricketing fitness."
It was clear to see where he was coming from. Before the start of the ODI series, the Indian team hadn’t played an international match for one year – their last game at the highest level was the World T20 final in 2020, which occurred on 8 March 2020. They had to wait until 7 March 2021 to play their next game and that surely didn’t help.
When you consider ODIs, then the gap was even longer. India hadn’t played a single match in the 50-over format in 2020 with their last game in the format coming in November 2019. While a major reason for that was the COVID-19 pandemic, considering that top-level cricket resumed last July, they surely shouldn’t have had to wait this long to play international cricket again.
On the other hand, South Africa were much better prepared. They recently hosted Pakistan for three ODIs and three T20Is. In addition to that, a few of their players featured in the 2020 Women’s Big Bash League which would have certainly helped. Meanwhile, most of India’s players only featured in the Women’s T20 Challenge in November last year, a tournament that features only four matches as of now.
THE TOSS FACTOR
While India’s performances were not up to the mark, you could say that the toss did have a big impact as well, especially considering all matches in the series were won by the team that won the toss and batted second. The hosts won the toss just once during the series, which was the second ODI, and they went on to win that game convincingly.
Take nothing away from South Africa – they were absolutely brilliant – but India would have probably made a stronger challenge if they had more luck with the toss.
SPINNERS FAIL TO FIRE
In the final contest of the series, Rajeshwari Gayakwad bowled splendidly, picking up three wickets and conceding just 13 runs in 10 overs. But apart from that, the Indian spinners did not enjoy much success during the series. This was particularly highlighted by the fact that the team’s premier leg-spinner Poonam Yadav failed to take a wicket in four matches.
India’s reliance on spinners was also not helpful. In the fourth ODI, which was a must-win game, the home team decided to field just one frontline pacer in Mansi Joshi. This move backfired as South Africa chased down a target of 267, their highest successful run-chase in ODIs ever.
In total, across the five ODIs, the Indian spinners bowled 153.2 overs and only took 13 wickets, which led to a bowling strike rate of 70.77 during the series. Having played spin-heavy bowling line-ups and the slower bowlers failing to get wickets regularly, India simply struggled to restrict Lizelle Lee and Co.
Shikha Pandey wasn’t selected for this series, with Mansi Joshi and Monica Patel supporting Jhulan Goswami in the pace bowling department. While Goswami was her usual self, there is definitely room for improvement on this front from the other bowlers. It’ll be interesting to see what combination the selectors adopt in the upcoming months.
In addition to the above reasons, there will be concerns about Jemimah Rodrigues’ form and the scoring rate. While the talented young batter was dropped after low scores in the first three matches, there’s perhaps a need for a more attacking approach from some of India’s top-order batters. You’d think that Shafali Verma could be in consideration to help fix that issue.
With the 2022 World Cup less than a year away, India could certainly do with their players being in top form in the lead-up to the tournament and, with more game time, there’s a good chance that they’ll get back to their best soon.
(Image Courtesy – BCCI)