India women lost to New Zealand by 3 wickets in Queenstown on Friday as the hosts took an unassailable 3-0 lead with two matches left in the ODI series. These are worrying signs for India ahead of the World Cup that begins in New Zealand on March 4.
And the team management, led by captain Mithali Raj and coach Romesh Powar, are searching for answers. Sent in to bat, India were bowled out for 279. In response, New Zealand had a few hiccups but held their nerve to seal their third straight victory with five balls to spare.
Powar attributed the loss to a lack of match practice. In a post-match interaction, Powar said: “The team just had three days of practice going into the one-off T20I and the five-match ODI series. That was not enough. I have to give it to the players. In such less time, you can’t get into a competitive series against a side like New Zealand. There will be some rustiness. Going forward, we are trying to address bowling and picking up wickets in the middle overs.”
Despite Smriti Mandhana missing from the XI, India were off to a great start as openers Sabbhineni Meghana and Shafali Verma stitched together a partnership of 100 in 13 overs. Meghana scored 61 runs off 41 balls, hammering two sixes during her stay at the wicket. The 18-year-old Shafali contributed 51 off 57 balls. Once the duo got out, it was left to the middle-order to carry on the good work.
But vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur endured another failure. She scored an unimpressive 13 off 22 balls before getting run out. “It is up to Harman to get back her form. It’s the player’s mind which works in pressure situations,” Powar said.
With Mandhana set to return for the next game, it remains to be seen whether Harmanpreet will be still persisted with. Batting at No.5, it was Deepti Sharma who propelled the Indian innings with an unbeaten 69.
With the experienced Jhulan Goswami and medium-pacer Renuka Thakur leading the attack, India should have fancied their chances at the halfway stage. Goswami removed openers Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates early on and could have made further inroads if the Indians had not dropped catches.
“You have to play under pressure. After Australia, we didn’t play any game as a team. We came straight into the series against New Zealand. So, when you want to address the issues about batting, bowling or fielding, you need to play as a group before a series. It didn’t happen. So eventually we are trying these things in this series,” said Powar.
New Zealand’s chase was powered by knocks from Amelia Kerr (67), Amy Satterthwaite (59) and Lauren Down (64 not out). While Goswami was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, the others couldn’t provide adequate support.
When Powar was asked whether the Indian bowling unit was a concern going into the World Cup, he said: “Not really, we are not concerned about anything right now. The bowlers are getting game time. And as for team combinations, you will have to wait and see. We are trying a few things here. You will have to be a little patient with us. You can see our combinations match by match.”