Middle-Order not scoring freely has been an issue for India : says Soniya Dabir

On Tuesday, Australia bossed India from start to finish to comprehensively win the first ODI by nine wickets. Putting India to bat first, Australia restricted the visitors to 225-8 in 50 overs, and in reply, made light work of the chase as they achieved the target in just 41 overs, riding on triple half centuries from Alyssa Healy, Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning. Australia lead the three match series 1-0.

 

Australia Women's Cricket Team. PC: ICC/Twitter
Australia Women’s Cricket Team. PC: ICC/Twitter

 

To review the first ODI that was played between India and Australia at the Harrup Park, MacKay, Female Cricket Live hosted Soniya Dabir, former India cricketer, Aarti Sankaran and Sharadha Sridharan, former Tamil Nadu players and current cricket coaches, to have their inputs.

Soniya said, “It was a good contest between India and Australia. Though India lost the match, there were many positives. Meghana bowled really well with the new ball. Yastika and Richa looked good with the bat.”

India played three debutants in Meghana Singh, Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh. Aarti said, “It was good to see Meghana making her debut but I was disappointed that it came at the cost of Shikha Pandey. On her debut, Meghana bowled well. Yastika and Richa were superb with the bat. They looked at home.”

 

Alyssa Healy in action during 1st ODI vs India. PC: ICC
Alyssa Healy in action during 1st ODI vs India. PC: ICC

 

India got off to a steady start, thanks to Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana, who put together 31 runs in 3.2 overs. Just when it was looking good for India, Darcie Brown gave Australia the breakthroughs as she sent both the openers back to the pavilion. Sharadha said, “Darcie Brown, playing just her second ODI, looked dangerous with the ball in hand. I was not quite happy with the way Smriti Mandhana got out. The field was set and the bowler had to bowl in that fourth-fifth stump line to see the back of Mandhana. For Shafali Verma, I think she was unlucky to get out that way. It was just a faint tickle off her bat and she was caught behind. More than the openers, the middle order not scoring freely has been the issue for India.”

Mithali Raj and Yastika Bhatia then joined hands to stitch 77 runs for the third over, however they took 21 overs to do so. Soniya said, “Rotation of strike can be done a bit more. I feel that if we want Mithali to score freely, she should be given the assurance or the cushion by the batters that bat around her. I think when Harmanpreet Kaur will be back, Mithali will get that cushion. There is no doubt that Yastika played well with her. Apart from that, promoting Richa Ghosh up the order can be a good idea. She bats at top of the order for West Bengal so may be promoting her up will help the team score quickly and freely.”

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Soniya Dabir comments on india's performance during 1st ODI vs Australia
Soniya Dabir comments on india’s performance during 1st ODI vs Australia

 

Aarti added, “The momentum for the middle order is created by top 3 or top 4. If there is no momentum, it is difficult for the middle order to fire. With respect to Mithali and Yastika’s partnership, though it seems that they scored slowly, it is actually otherwise. There were many opportunities to pick up twos, however they restricted themselves to just singles. Both of them played some good looking shots but they failed to extract the true value for their shots. The top order needs to show urgency in running between the wickets. I feel middle order is not a problem, it becomes a problem when the top order gives it a sense of there being a problem.”

Soniya further added, “Our batters did not get out to great balls. They just fell to the trap laid by the Aussies. For Smriti there was a clear plan and now it is for her to overcome her weaknesses and come out strong in her next outings.”

Mithali Raj came in to bat at number 4in the first ODI. As per her statistics, she has been more successful at the number 3 position. Still she continues to bat at 4. Sharadha said, “We all know that Mithali has been more successful at number 3 position, however it is unknown why she bats at number 4. Her average at number 3 is atleast 4-5 points higher than that at number 4. Also out of the seven centuries that she has hit, five have come batting at number 3 position. Let’s hope that the team management decides to promote her to number 3.”

In the second innings, India managed to pick up just one wicket, which was of Alyssa Healy (77). Poonam Yadav was the lone wicket-taker for India. Soniya said, “Our bowlers bowed well but the Australian batting was exceptional. Jhulan and Meghna bowled well. Pooja did not have a great day with the ball. Our spinners too did their job but I feel that they can use flighted deliveries more to deceive the batters and vary their lines and lengths. I would also want to see Shikha in the next match. She is the one who brings the ball into the batter. We missed her in-swingers today.”

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Aarti added, “We can have another spinner who can take the ball away. Between Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Ekta Bisht, I feel Ekta is a better option. She is a smart bowler and has a good arm ball in her repertoire. Just like Sophie Molineux got the ball to talk for Australia, Ekta can play that role for India. She is a skiddy customer too. On the other hand, there is no denying the fact that Rajeshwari is a world class bowler. She had a good World Cup as well. It will be interesting to see if either of them get a chance in the upcoming matches.”

Harmanpreet Kaur, who missed out in the first ODI, could be back for the second ODI. In that case, she will have to replace someone from the playing XI. Sharadha said, “It is going to be tricky for the team management. May be Sneh Rana will have to sit out to make way for Harman.” Aarti added, “If I had to make a choice, I would replace Yastika as the opener instead of Shafali. We need horses for courses and I don’t think Shafali will be the ideal opener in this series. Yastika and Smriti can open, Mithali at 3, Harman at 4, Richa at 5, Deepti at 6, Vastrakar at 7 and then our bowlers. I agree you will have two left handers at the top but they are very different batters. Yastika is more off side dominant and a front foot player, while Smriti is comfortable on the back foot and she can cut and pull the bowlers at will.”

The second ODI will be played on September 24 at Harrup Park, MacKay. India may make changes to their current playing XI. Soniya said, “I would want to see Shikha instead of Pooja in the side and one of the left arm spinners as well.” Sharadha added, “We need a left arm spinner in the side. With respect to the openers, Jemimah Rodrigues can also be tried out, since Jemimah and Smriti were successful in 2018 and 2019 as openers.”

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