There were not too many faces gathered to wave and cheer for them as the West Indies women’s cricket team boarded the team bus to go practicing at the Mulapadu grounds in Vijayawada on Tuesday morning after breakfast. Their Indian counterparts came off better after their second consecutive win against West Indies on their home ground and they are happy to keep their noses a little up in the air, deservedly so.
It has been a poor spell so far for the visitors in Vijayawada. After two consecutive losses in the One-Day International series against Mithali Raj’s team, the girls from the Caribbean have the toughest job at hand – to keep their morals high. And the seniors in the team are not leaving any stone unturned to achieve just that. Shopping and travelling is out of the question because Indian roads are scary and the traffic just whoosh past, opines the girls and hence, the best way to unwind and cheer up is to have a good massage, taste some great Indian food, and go outdoors to practice.
On the way back to the hotel on Sunday, after Shikha Pandey and Veda Krishnamurthy signed the fate of the match by getting to the target of 154 with 72 balls in hand, the silent question hanging on every one’s faces was – why? The journey back to the hotel from the new stadium where the matches are being played is a little away from the main city. It normally takes a little over an hour, but on Sunday, it seemed far too long.
The mood prevailed till Monday morning until a long and intense team meeting ended just before lunch and the team univocally decided to put the past in its place and have faith in themselves and God. The team with its coach, manager, and physio had went ahead and asked themselves what was it that made the Twenty20 world champions fail so miserably in the 50-overs format?
“That’s a question we have been asking ourselves over and over. Our task will get easier when we have the answer to it,” chirped a smiling Merissa Aguilleira, a former captain on Monday.
Aguilleira and her team will need a win in this India series to secure direct entry to the 2017 Women’s World Cup. That means, their match against Mithali Raj’s team on Wednesday is going to be a crucial face-saver. In both the previous India matches the Windies slumped at the start and coach Vasbert Drakes admitted that the team could not follow the game plan while and the top-order batters were not playing to their potential. ‘“Sometimes we just have to wait for the rhythm to set in,” he said.
Taking time to acclimatise
“There’s no special strategy or technique we are adopting. We will just try to be ourselves, play our own games, and that’ll be enough to get to the top,” said Stafanie Taylor, the World No. 1 in the International Cricket Council’s rankings, and captain of West Indies and Jamaica.
In introspection, she pointed out that it was not lack of game practice that was the reason for their losses. The same team drew a series against England before coming to India. “We will definitely love to get more game practices but it might not be the reason this time,” said Taylor. “We just came after playing England and we were in good form, and the matches there did a lot of good for us, but the Indian team is young and vibrant and they are ready to play their best games. Also it probably is taking a little more to acclimatise ourselves to the conditions here as we reached just three days before the first game.”
Deandra Dottin, the star so far on the West Indies side with her 57 in the first match, seems more forthcoming. Smiling sadly, she said, “We are not playing at our best and when we do that there’s no stopping us.”
Aguilleira informed Scroll that the team has been mainly relaxing, thinking positive, bonding, getting massages and tending to themselves to get ready to take on India on Wednesday. Taylor chipped in, “You know we believe that 75% of the game is played in the head and so we are preparing our minds first to come back heavily in the last ODI.”
Senior players need to step up
“The pitch is fantastic. The balls are coming to the bat nicely, and the Indian side is able to take the advantage of it. We have played in worse pitch conditions in India before and we certainly don’t blame it on the pitch now,” said Aguilleira.
Coach Drakes admits that some of the senior players are not playing up to their full potential and have to give in a stronger contribution. When asked if his crumbling batting line-up would be cause of concern for the World Cup scheduled to be held in June 2017, he said the team will certainly be going into introspection mode after this series and will work on it for the remaining seven months before the world championship.
Signing off and getting back to preparations, Taylor provided a final reminder: “Last time, we were here, we made history and we will not forget that on Wednesday.”