Mandhana says India had not factored for dew for the night semifinal

Match Preview: New Zealand vs India - Match 1

Smriti Mandhana in action. ©ICC

Smriti Mandhana said that the Indian team had not factored for dew under floodlights in Antigua ahead of their World Twenty20 semifinal clash against England because they had not experienced it during the practice sessions. She felt it nullified the threat of their spinners, who had been the team’s strength during the league stages in Guyana where India won all their four league games played in daylight to top the group table.

Choosing to bat first on an used surface, India, without Mithali Raj, were bowled out for 112 in 19.3 overs, and England chased down the target for the loss of two wickets in 17.1 overs.

“We did not consider the dew factor. We had played 11am matches (in the league stages) and had not played any 8pm match,” Mandhana told reporters at the mixed media zone. “Even when we practiced we had not seen any dew, so we did not think it would play a factor. I felt that played a huge as rather than spinning the ball started skidding. This was a different case from Guyana.”

Mandhana also acknowledged that the spinners did not stick to their plans, like they had in Guyana and it allowed English batters to play freely. “I don’t think we bowled the way we did in Guyana. If we could have bowled the same way...You could see other teams trying to bowl the way we bowled in Guyana, and all the batters were finding it difficult to play shots. I thought we gave in, we didn’t bowl to our tactics. We didn’t expect the ball will start skid. We didn’t factor the dew. It’s not an excuse."

“Not sure about (whether) the line (the bowlers bowled was incorrect), but we could have had more single-saving fielders in the ring so that we encouraged them to hit us over the top because only wickets could win us matches and not playing 20 overs,” she added. “I thought we could have been better on that part. Bowling wise, that was our plan. We could not have gone away from it because that has given us results in the last four matches even on good wicket. We could have done better in fielding.”

The big news obviously was the exclusion of Mithali from the playing XI despite she being available. Mithali had missed the league game against Australia because of being “unwell”. It was the first time in her career after her debut tour to England in 1999 that Mithali was benched from an Indian team. Mandhana, like her skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, backed the call, saying the team management of which she is a part of as vice-captain was keen on sticking to the winning combination.

“We thought Australia game was perfect game for us, bowlers did well, batters did well and fielders were brilliant. We wanted to stick to the winning combination,” she said. “I saw the first match (between Windies and Australia) and it was spinning a lot. So, we thought of having an extra spinner in the team. That’s what the thinking was.”

There was an opinion that Mithali could have come into the team ahead of an out of form Veda Krishnamurthy to lend stability to the batting unit, but Mandhana explained that their roles are different and they were not like for like replacements.

“Both are different players. We were looking at Veda as a finisher. Mithali di is someone who could stablise us,” she continued. “Both had different roles to play. I don’t think we could have changed the combination.”

Mandhana, who made a quickfire 34 before falling off the last ball of the Power Play, admitted that the pitch was “two-paced” and had “spongy bounce”, and felt that it was important to get one’s eye in before being innovative.

"We saw the first innings (of the first match) in the hotel, and we thought it was difficult wicket to get going. I had said in Guyana also these are slow wickets and I cannot get going from first ball. I need to take three to four balls or five balls to see how the wicket is playing, and then take a call,” she said, even while sharing that the team was confident of defending a small total in the mid-innings break and there was no negativity. “Being so windy you have to select where you want to hit and wait for that ball. Because if you hit against the wind, even if you middle it, you definitely won't be...We definitely discussed this as a batting unit. Later on our plan was to get at least runs to balls.

Unfortunately, we were not able to do that. It was a hard wicket to start whacking from the first ball. I don’t think it was a wicket of 170-180. It was definitely a wicket of 140-150.”

Mandhana credited Ramesh Powar, the coach, for giving specific roles to each of the players, which helped India to fight back after the T20 Asia Cup final loss to Bangladesh. Series win in Sri Lanka, a whitewash for India A - a team made up of the World Cup bound squad - against Australia A in Mumbai was followed by dominating the group stages of the World T20.

“Definitely it has worked for us for last three months. Whatever happened today, if you just remove it, the way we have played over the last three months as a group has been brilliant. No one even gave us a chance to do well in the World Cup,” she said. “Ramesh sir had given specific roles to each person, and that helped in the last 14 games we played in Sri Lanka, against Australia A and in last four matches. Only if you lose one game, you cannot change your tactics or strategy that has worked for you. Going forward it is best to give one person a specific role,or if that person is not able to do it then you can identify other players who could be able to fit into that role.”