India’s World Cup campaign has been a rollercoaster ride. After winning their first four fixtures, including a hugely impressive opening victory against England, defeat to South Africa means they face a struggle to qualify for the semi-finals, with two tough fixtures still to come.
Former India captain and ICC commentator Anjum Chopra thinks the loss was something of an accident waiting to happen.
“If you were sitting in the Indian dressing room before this game,” Chopra says, “you might have sensed an ordinary performance like this was around the corner.”
Since their first game against England – when India racked up 281/3, their highest ever score against that opposition – India’s batting hasn’t properly clicked, despite almost every batter playing at least one innings of note since then. “It’s difficult to say they are not doing well because in bits and pieces they’ve been contributing, and at least one has put their hand up each time,” Chopra says. “But as a collective, the top order – especially the opening partnership after the first game – haven’t really fired.”
Notwithstanding India’s batting failure, South Africa deserve credit; they registered 273/9 batting first, kicked off by a blistering powerplay that reaped 71 runs. “I think they were not prepared for this kind of onslaught,” Chopra says.
But while it would have required India to break the record for the highest ever chase in a World Cup, Chopra, who scored 2,856 runs across 127 ODIs for India, thinks the task wasn’t beyond them. “A lot of it comes down to application,” Chopra says, “and not being aware that even if 250-plus is put on the board, it can become a chaseable target if you break it down into smaller targets.”
India and South Africa are familiar foes. They had faced off five times this year before Saturday, of which India had won four and lost just one. But the Proteas surprised Mithali Raj’s side in Leicester.
“I’d like to put [the loss] down to lack of preparation for this game,” adds Chopra. “Although they’ve played South Africa many times in the last six months, when it’s in a World Cup it’s a different ball game.”
To take just one example of how India may have had a false sense of security, they may have thought they had the number of South African opener Lizelle Lee, who had scored just 39 runs in four games against India this year before Saturday. She smashed 92 off 65 balls, with India appearing hapless in the face of the onslaught.
“They’d like to look as this as a hiccup, a wake-up call, going forward,” says Chopra. “I don’t think they have a lot of options to choose from, apart from the batting order, but I would be happy if Mithali Raj walks in at three, irrespective of the situation. If Raj comes in at three, and then Kaur at four, it gives a little more solidity going forward, just to get the house in order. Who drops down though is another question.”
In any case, India now knows the scale of the task ahead, with the eventual target refocused in their minds. “They’ve got two really big matches against New Zealand and Australia coming up, and now they’ll be aware that if they don’t win either of those, then those four games they did win won’t matter,” Chopra adds. “Getting to the semi-final is the first goal.”