Australia has been all about ‘ruthless’ and ‘relentless’ cricket in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017. Those are words the players frequently use and sentiments that come through in every game, whether it’s going at 10-an-over to make a chase, or bouncing back from 19 for 2 in the Power Play to post 290.
England and New Zealand harp on ‘freedom’ – playing with a ‘free mind’, smiling lots and enjoying yourself. It’s allowed one team to post 300-plus scores twice and the other to twice chase down totals of around 150 in fewer than 20 overs.
South Africa is all about controlled aggression and confidence.
So what of India?
Mithali Raj’s side has four wins in five games but, unfortunately for a team high on potential, it hasn’t looked like it has identified the brand of cricket that consistently works for it. And with two big games ahead, against Australia on Wednesday and New Zealand on Saturday, it faces an uphill battle.
Raj wants her team to play ‘fearless’ cricket. It’s something it has shown itself capable of, in the qualifier win over South Africa back in February and against England in the opening game of this World Cup, for instance. But for now, it’s not all clicking.
“We started well, but we have not been consistent with the way we wanted to play in the tournament,” admitted the captain. “The first two games were good for the team, but we really didn’t look anywhere close to that brand of cricket against Sri Lanka or Pakistan, and we dipped hugely in the game against South Africa.
“But again, it is just a matter of a few players coming back into form and getting runs under their belt.
“The standard of women’s cricket is such that 200 is not a target that we would want. We are looking around 250-plus. To score 250, you need to bat, you need to have your top order getting runs, and not the lower order. If we’re playing Australia and we look forward to good cricket and we’re aiming to beat them, then it requires us to be at our best in all departments.”
Against Australia, India will need to be at its best, not just better than it was in its previous outing, stressed Raj. She expected Meg Lanning’s side to make a strong comeback after its three-run loss to England. “That’s what their attitude is. Australians always make a comeback, they don’t give anything easily. We are coming back from a defeat as well, so equally we want to do well.”
Lanning termed the loss to England a “nice little wake-up call”. “We didn’t play as consistently as we would have liked. We weren’t able to put enough pressure on England through the game. Plenty of things to learn from, which is a really good thing,” she said.
Talking up the Indian batting, she identified Smriti Mandhana, the opener, who has had a string of single-digit scores since her century early in the tournament, as someone it will be wary about. “She’s a huge talent. We saw her around Australia a few years ago. She made a hundred against us and made a fair few runs, so we knew how good she was and that she’ll keep improving. It doesn’t surprise us too much that she’s done so well, because we knew she was a very good player. We have to make sure we get her out cheaply tomorrow to ensure they don’t get away from us,” said Lanning.
Both Australia and India have had success with their slower bowlers. Lanning insisted a positive approach was the only one that would work.
“It’s important with the bat that you be positive against the spinners. If you hang around and try to see them off, you can get yourself into trouble and get bogged down,” she said. “We’ve spoken about having that approach with the bat throughout the tournament. We probably didn’t do that as well in the last game, so we’re keen to come out there and put as much pressure on their bowlers as we can by being really attacking. And the role of our spinners is to try and do the opposite and keep them quiet.”
Considerable focus will be on the Australian bowlers, who conceded 32 extras against England. Training for the India game included addressing that element, said Ashleigh Gardner, the off-psinner. “Our wides let us down (against England). It’s just our bowlers not being ready. I bowled two wides and it was just I was a little bit lazy, not finishing off my action. For most bowlers it’s a bit of a mind fade. It comes back to keeping the processes really simple when you’re on the top of your mark.”
None of the processes will change because of one loss, she said. “We do want to play that relentless type of cricket.”