Top takeaways from India Women tour of New Zealand 2021-22, India Women lost the ODI series by 1-4
After getting delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 will finally kick off on March 4, 2022, with hosts New Zealand taking on the West Indies in the inaugural game at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui while Mithali Raj and co will start their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on March 6 at the same venue.
However, before that they have got a couple of issues to sort out as they are going into the marquee event on the back of a 1-4 series loss against New Zealand Women. After losing four consecutive ODI matches, Mithali Raj and co finally managed to get a consolation win in the final ODI match against the White Ferns on February 25.
On that note, let's review Team India's ODI series loss against New Zealand and important takeaways for them from this series going into World Cup 2022.
India Women Top Order
India's top order looked stable in the series with Sabbhineni Meghana providing a good start in all the three matches she played in. During the second ODI, Meghana scored 49 off 50 balls, falling short by a run for a well-deserved half-century. She helped the team put up a total of 270 runs which India failed to defend. Overall, in three matches, she accumulated 114 runs at an average of 38 and a strike rate of 108.57.
Smriti Mandhana, the star India opener who was quarantined during the first three ODIs against New Zealand, returned to the XI for the first time in New Zealand in the 4th ODI and found her rhythm in the final match at John Davies Oval, Queenstown as she set the tone for the solid chase.
Despite losing Shafali Verma early, Smriti carried on and hit a solid 71 from 84 deliveries, helping India put pressure on New Zealand bowlers.
Yastika Bhatia looked in good form as well, having smashed 91 runs in 4 matches with 41 (63) being her highest score in the series. Shafali Verma's form, however, will remain a cause of concern for the team going into World Cup 2022.
According to former India captain Diana Edulji, bowlers, perhaps have found out Shafali's weakness as she has been playing international cricket for two years.
“Shafali needs a little rap on the knuckle, she needs proper grooming. She is moving towards the square leg and playing. There is no stillness in her stance. I can’t understand why. When she was scoring, there wasn’t this type of (trigger) movement. Bowlers have found her out and that is why she is moving away from the stumps to play her strokes. But you have to respect the bowlers at this level,” Edulji said after the 2nd ODI against New Zealand.
India Women Middle Order
India's middle order looked stable with Mithali Raj leading the attack from the front. Raj, who became the second highest run scorer of the series with 232 runs in 5 matches, kept the scoreboard moving whenever India looked in trouble.
Richa Ghosh and Deepti Sharma also emerged as top contributors along with captain Mithali Raj in middle order. While Ghosh smashed 146 runs in 4 innings, Deepti amassed 116 runs in 5 innings.
However, it was Harmanpreet Kaur who looked off-colour throughout the series apart from the last match where she made an important contribution of 63 (66) in an Indian victory. It must be said that Harmanpreet has not been in the best of international form since her heroics in the last ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017, where she smashed 171 not out in the semi-finals to help India seal a spot in the final against England.
Though India lost the final by just nine runs, the right-handed batter's innings remained the talking point for quite some time after the ICC event. However, since then she has not looked in good touch at the international level.
Harmanpreet has featured in 28 ODI innings since then and has gone past 50 just thrice, where one came in the recent final ODI match against New Zealand as her 66-ball 63 proved to be the difference between India easing through to the target and the White Ferns staging a comeback.
Harmanpreet was in desperate need of some runs and the half-century in the final ODI against the hosts must have boosted her confidence as India needed their star batter to step up and perform at the Women's World Cup.
India Women Bowlers
India's bowling line-up didn't look up to the mark in the recently concluded ODI series against New Zealand. The coin fell in favour of Mithali Raj majority of the times and the batters put defendable totals on the board. However, it was the bowlers who failed to execute their plans well.
A mammoth total of 270 in the 2nd ODI and 279 in the 3rd looked to be defendable totals with the experienced bowling line-up India carries but New Zealand successfully chased down the target on both occasions.
Deepti Sharma, however, looked promising with the ball as she picked 10 wickets in 5 matches. Rajeshwari Gayakwad took 6 wickets in 4 matches while Jhulan Goswami, the most experienced bowler, picked 5 wickets in 3 matches and remained wicket-less in the final ODI.
However, all of them failed to provide breakthroughs in the middle order and close the game early. This is an area of concern for the Women in Blue as the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022 starts next week where the 2017 runners-up take on Pakistan in their opening match on March 6.
As far as seam bowling is concerned, India Women tried out Pooja Vastrakar , Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, and Simran Bahadur throughout the series. For spin bowling, Sneh Rana and Ekta Bisht were given regular chances.
"Definitely have been trying a few combinations with the seam and spin attack. Bowling attack is a concern going into the World Cup," Mithali said at the post-match presentation ceremony on February 22.
Mithali further added that bowlers have not been consistent in their lines and lengths throughout the tour.
"We are adapting to the conditions and to the open ground and the breeze. We have not been very consistent in our bowling spells," Mithali added.
The ICC Women’s World Cup 2022 will be played between March 4 and April 3 in New Zealand.