The Harmanpreet Kaur-led Indian team were originally supposed to have their preparatory camp for the World Twenty20, which gets underway in the Windies from November 9, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. But issues between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and Mumbai Cricket Association meant that the camp had to be shifted at the last minute to Brabourne Stadium. After the camp got over on October 21, the World Cup bound squad played three Twenty20 matches as India A against Australia A at the BKC Ground, winning the series 3-0. Kaur thanked BCCI for sorting out the mess and ensuring that the preparation was not hampered ahead of the multi-nation event.
“Whatever that was happening was not in our control. We just wanted to have a good time on the ground and get good practice games,” Kaur told reporters at the pre-departure press conference in Mumbai on Saturday (October 27). “BCCI was able to arrange everything for us. We are glad that they gave us whatever we were expecting after a lot of problem.”
India A won all the three T20s against Australia A by a healthy margin.
Smriti Mandhana’s 40-ball 72 in a successful chase of 161 in the first T20, Mithali Raj’s century to set up the win in the second game and the overall performance of the spinners were some of the takeaways. Kaur was adjudged player of the series for scoring 143 runs in three matches.
Kaur, though, did not always bat at her preferred No.4 position. She said the aim of the series was to give everyone a chance and be sure of the starting XI for the first match against New Zealand on the inaugural day of the World T20. The team management had tried a similar ploy in the five-match T20I series against Sri Lanka last month, which they won 4-0.
“It’s not just about me. We have told all our batters and bowlers that it is a 20-over game. You have to be flexible and all the time ready to bat in any position or can be called to bowl at any time,” Kaur said.
“In the last eight games we were trying to give chance to everyone so that when we go to the World T20 we know that which girl can play better at which position and is best used for the team. Same in the bowling (department). Earlier we used to decide who is going to bowl in the first six overs. Now all the five bowlers have been prepared in advance that they can bowl anytime.
“Right now everyone knows their own plans, why they are in the team and what we are expecting from them,” she added. “I think if your teammates know what as a leader or as a team you are expecting from them and understand what they are capable of….As a team when you know your teammates are ready to execute, it is a good sign.”
India will be without Jhulan Goswami, meaning the pace bowling department will be without a leader. Ramesh Powar, the coach, however, insisted that since he took charge in August the focus has been to empower every individual instead of focussing on a smaller pool of players.
“We are not here to create leaders. We are here to create match winning players. We are not going to focus on one player. We want a unit in which anyone from the 15 can win us a game,” Powar said, even while hinting that the last eight T20 games has given the management an idea of what the team composition could be. “We are trying to bring in a culture where every player thinks that she is a match winner of this team. We haven’t decided that batting leader is she or bowling leader is she. Our attitude is that every player is a match winner. We are working accordingly.”
Power hitting has been the buzz word in the circuit over the last year.
England and Australia in particular have led the way with a ruthless approach to batting. Kaur agreed that the game’s language is changing, but felt it was important to stick to one’s strength to be successful at the World T20.
“Every team has their plus points and weaknesses. (We) not only (have) three (hitters), we have openers too. There is Smriti. The youngsters are also contributing. All over team is good. We cannot compare our team with others. Everyone’s game style is different. If we have to do well in the World Cup, we have to stick to what we have,” she said. “We have played with all teams in the past. All the teams have improved in the last couple of years. We have to go match by match. If we can stick to our game plan, then we should be able to win all the matches.”
There is genuine belief within the team that they can make it to the final on November 24. It stems from India’s performance in the 50-over World Cup in 2017 where they made it to the tournament after winning the Qualifiers and then played the final, which they lost by nine runs. Kaur admitted that pressure of the occasion and playing a final at Lord’s in front of more than 26,500 people got the better of them, but is hopeful that the experience from that day will come handy if a similar situation arises again.
“Before the last World Cup except for Jhulu di (Goswami) and Mithali di (in 2005 World Cup), no one had played the final. Only they had experience. Now that you have experienced it once, you are able to think what had happened and what had not happened,” Harmanpreet explained. “I think it was one such time if we had controlled our nerve better then we could have handled the situation better. We have learnt a lot from our mistakes and I hope we will not repeat the same mistakes if we are in a similar situation again. We hope to keep our mind cool and handle the situation better.”
Powar felt that a large number of youngsters in the team is a good thing as they come without any baggage. “We put them under pressure (in the last eight games). May it be power play pressure or the pressure of chase. Youngsters are luckily fearless. Hope it changes the whole perception of pressure for them,” he said. As a coach I don’t feel them going under that situation reaction wise. They are youngsters who will react differently now. This team is more about dominance rather than just competing. We are trying to dominate each situation. That’s where pressure will be off. We tried in these eight games to put them under pressure, like we changed a lot of things. We put Taniya (Bhatia) under pressure to go out and play her shots in the Power Play. We put Jemi (Jemimah Rodrigues) under pressure. We wanted to replicate these things.
We exposed them by playing with one seamer and put pressure on our spinners. Let them go through that and come out winners. In eight games, most of the time they did really well and that’s why we learn.”