Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Bold selection calls gloss over the cracks in India's batting. On a day when their batting frailties were laid bare once again, India Women found a glimmer of hope in two bold selection calls
On a day when their batting frailties were laid bare once again, India Women found a glimmer of hope in two bold selection calls
On a day when their batting frailties were laid bare once again, this time by a ‘depleted and inexperienced' Australian pace attack, India Women found a glimmer of hope in two bold selection calls that not many saw coming.
Rewind to July, when wrapping up a consolation win against reigning champions England, ODI captain Mithali Raj had identified one-down and finisher's positions as the two major holes to plug ahead of the World Cup in a batting unit that had lately also been deprived of power-packed starts. In the short turnaround since, by handing out debuts to Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh – ahead of more experienced options in each of those roles – India probably have gained more than their crushing nine-wicket defeat in Mackay would reveal.
India's experimentation at No. 3, since Raj gave up the spot on the 2019 New Zealand tour, had thrown up varying results but none to the satisfaction of the team management. They tried Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues and even Deepti Sharma in the position, with Raj demoting herself to no. 4 to compensate for the lack of experience in the middle-order that made it more prone to collapses. Over time, Rodrigues lost form and Raut lost management's faith, forcing the team to reevaluate if it's indeed in their best interests to have their most reliable anchor batting out of her natural position.
And just as Raj was queuing up for a return to No. 3 where she's found most success in ODI cricket, Yastika emerged as an enticing option. Her debut may have been hastened by a thumb injury to vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur that opened up a vacancy while also asking the captain to stay put at four a bit longer; but with her valuable knock of 35 (51 balls), she seems set to ward off any competition for a middle-order spot at least on this trip.
Having already toured Australia in late 2019 with the India A side, albeit with little success, Yastika made the cut for India's only warm-up game in Australia last week after impressing with her consistency in the short preparatory camp back home before flying out. Probably her left-handedness gave her the edge over her peers, but the 21-year-old seized the opportunity with both hands, making a stroke-filled run-a-ball 41 amongst top-order ruins. On her ODI debut, she merely put more of that on display for those who didn't witness it in Brisbane.
It may not have been as many runs or come at strike-rate as good, but her intent to score was what left an instant mark. Even on international debut, Yastika looked at home. Walking in as early as in the fourth over, she negotiated the pace and bounce of Darcie Brown well and looked comfortable against Australia's (unsurprising) short-ball ploy. She didn't hesitate to go for her shots despite getting beaten off the very first international delivery, eked out runs hitting square of the wicket and used her feet well to step out against spin – earning the instant approval of her captain, with whom she shared a vital 77-run stand and helped India stand on their feet again.
Probably her left-handedness gave her the edge over her peers, but Yastika seized the opportunity with both hands
“Yastika had a very good camp in Bangalore. She was among runs and she continued that in the practice game [in Brisbane]. Whatever little she scored, she was quite impressive and positive in her approach. And that's why without a doubt we picked her to replace an injured Harman. The position we sent her in today, she was quite positive out there and [showed intent] to score runs,” Raj said explaining the rationale behind her selection ahead of a back-among-runs Jemimah Rodrigues.
Another debutant to earn high praise from the captain even in defeat was Ghosh, who with her unbeaten cameo worth 32 off 29 showed promise to ease out some of India's finishing woes, if not the middle-order role she was originally earmarked for.
Over the last five years, India's hunt for an X-factor wicketkeeper has seen a generous shuffle between Sushma Verma, Nuzhat Parween and Taniya Bhatia, before eventually handing out an opportunity to the teenager earlier this year. Her 50-overs initiation had been in the offing ever since India threw Ghosh the keeping gloves for a one-off T20I in the South Africa series at home. The 17-year-old then got a chance to prove herself for a full series and held her own to keep a returning Taniya out of the T20I XI on the England tour.
Ghosh ticks all the boxes for India – an ever-improving wicketkeeper, a solid lower-order enforcer and a potential floater all rolled into a 17-year-old who's hungry to learn and evolve. Her selection ahead of the Punjab keeper – touted by far the best in the country – is a bold statement from India, underlining an uncompromising stand on lower-order contributions that hold the key to their batting progress. Ghosh's debut knock at a strike rate above 110, and a counterattacking 45-run eighth-wicket stand with Jhulan Goswami could have well been a game-changer, if not for the lack of support from the rest of the batting.
Raj reasoned Ghosh's familiarity with lower-order role was the sole reason behind not promoting her ahead of Deepti or Pooja Vastrakaar despite her proven prowess with the bat in the shortest format and the ability to clear the field at will. The captain, though, also did not rule out the possibility of a promotion given what she saw.
“Because it was her first game, so you want the player to walk in with confidence in the role that they've already [carried out],” reasoned Raj. “Richa has already been a part of the T20 set-up and scored runs for India there at a particular position. So, when she was making her debut [today], we wanted to give that comfort level to the player to slide into the same role that they have played with and have experience in. That's why she went in the order where she did.
“But yes, she was very impressive today and clearly it does make us think if we could promote her up the order [in coming games].
“Yastika was quite positive when she walked in to bat at no. 3 and so was Richa at the back end, and as debutants playing against Australia in their first game, they've done really well.”
A promotion may or may not be forthcoming so soon, especially with the impending return of their vice-captain, but Yastika's intent and Ghosh's fearlessness is bound to inject some much-needed impetus and gloss over the cracks that have devoured India's batting of late.