We have to make up for the dot balls: Mithali Raj

India captain admits her fast bowlers and fielders must lift their games, and batters must take the onus to put the game beyond South Africa.
Poonam Yadav

India has played a total of 359 dot balls in its last two games of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 – against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It is a big number considering England, one of the tournament favourites, has posted 370-plus totals twice, and Australia has recorded the best-ever World Cup chase of 258. Also, South Africa scored 305 for 9 in pursuit of 374 against England.

India’s best effort, meanwhile, has been 281 for 3 against England on the opening day.

Mithali Raj conceded that the onus is on the top-order batters to take maximum responsibility, especially against the bigger teams. “I think from the first couple of games, the wickets have been slowing down. Someone who is good with (facing) fast bowling needs to adapt to the spinners,” said Raj ahead of India’s game against South Africa in Leicester on Saturday. “When the spinners come in, we need to cash in during the middle overs. Running between the wickets will be important. We have to make up for the dot balls.

Mithali Raj concedes that responsibility will lie on the shoulders of the top order batters like Smriti Mandhana against South Africa
Mithali Raj concedes that responsibility will lie on the shoulders of the top order batters like Smriti Mandhana against South Africa

“Having said that, it is important to see where you place the ball. The boundary lines are 60-65 yards, so it is not too big where you can push for a double. With shorter boundaries, the throws are pretty accurate. It all depends on how well the batters coordinate. If we get a fresh wicket it might be high-scoring, but if it is used wicket then it might be below 300. Having said that, I believe that if you get a good start and you continue that momentum then there is a possibility to accelerate at the end. But if you are constantly rebuilding, we will be short of 300.”

The performance of the Indian seamers and the fielding have also left a lot to be desired.

“I would want my top order to fire and get those runs going from the start. Irrespective of who gets those runs, we need to work on partnerships. We need to have at least three-four partnerships. We have to aim more than 250 or maybe beyond that knowing the fact they (South Africa) scored 300 while batting second in the previous game. For that it is important that the runs come from batter’s bat. Top order needs to score runs,” she went on. “Spinners have done well, but I want the fast bowlers to chip in with more wickets at the top as a couple of early wickets puts pressure while chasing. And fielding, definitely yes.”

Although batters like Chloe Tryon and Laura Wolvaardt have been firing for South Africa, van Niekerk is confident her bowlers will do the same
Although batters like Chloe Tryon and Laura Wolvaardt have been firing for South Africa, van Niekerk is confident her bowlers will do the same

Dane van Niekerk, the South Africa captain, felt it would “be a bit odd” if India’s attack was not heavy on spin. But she was focussed more on getting her team’s plans right rather than worrying too much about the opposition.

“We have played them and they have played us. They know what to expect and we know what to expect. At the end of the day it is about executing your plans. If you stick to your plans, lines and lengths, your batting plans then you will come out as victors,” said van Niekerk. “We are going to focus on what we can do right, and try and rectify what we did wrong in the previous game and hopefully come out on the right side.”

Even though South Africa has not been at its best in terms of winning matches, it has been breaking records. Van Niekerk felt was a good sign as the business end of the tournament approached. “We spoke about it as a team (about scoring 300 while chasing). It was a disappointing day for us. We are not playing our best cricket and still breaking records. It tells us something about the team we have, and the chance we have,” she said. “I know we have it in our batting power, and we have shown it. At the end you look to get as much as you can. It was good to see that we crossed the 300-run mark. For batters that is a huge confidence booster.

“Again, as I said, we need to execute our plans or we are stuck. We are ready and raring to go. The bowlers are hungry to get out there and get some vengeance going. I am excited to see what they are going to do.”

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