Australia in India

India’s ‘main focus’ on Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, says Harmanpreet Kaur

Mithali Raj’s side play three ODIs against the formidable Australians, starting on March 12.

India vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur on Sunday made no bones about her side’s plans to subdue Australia skipper Meg Lanning and all-rounder Ellyse Perry. Mithali Raj and Co play a three-match One-day International series, starting on March 12.

“Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry have done well against us in the past,” Harmanpreet said in a press conference ahead of the first ODI in Vadodara on Monday. “So the main focus will be on those two. Other than that, (Elyse) Villani is there who is also a very good player.”

Despite being out for seven months due to an injury, which also saw her missing the Ashes, Lanning made a strong comeback in the practice games, setting up her side’s seven-wicket win against India ‘A’ in Mumbai with an unbeaten 63.

“They have a long batting order, we have our plans for all of them. We have a lot of footage from the World Cup also. The strategy will be to bowl according to the plan. She [Lanning] is their captain and an important player,” Harmanpreet added. “She has always performed well for her country and her team depends a lot on her. But for us, all players are equal. Our endeavour is not to let any of them click.”

The last time these two sides met – in the World Cup semi-finals – Harmanpreet played a major hand with a brilliant unbeaten 171, which took the wind of out of Australia’s sails. India’s Twenty20 skipper reminded that it was important for her team to reach the the quadrennial event without going through the qualifiers, which was the case in 2017.

“Every game is important because the last time we had to play the qualifiers,” said Harmanpreet, who recently turned 29. “We just want to play good cricket and we know if we play good cricket on a particular day, we will definitely win. We just want to focus on that and play a good brand of cricket. The focus will be on whatever we have planned, we execute that and whoever gets a chance, gives her 100 percent.”

Absence of Goswami and fielding woes

India will miss the services of Jhulan Goswami, who continues to recover from the heel injury she suffered during the South Africa ODIs. A new-ball bowling pair of Shikha Pandey and youngster Pooja Vastrakar yielded mixed results: “The absence of Jhulan can have a lot of impact,” coach Tushar Arothe said.

Arothe didn’t rule out playing a three-prong pace attack, which might bring rookie Sukanya Parida in the equation: “All these years, Jhulan has been performing extremely well. But we have a lot of faith in Shikha [Pandey] and Deepti [Sharma], especially Shikha. We always play two or three fast bowlers in the team. Like in the last T20 in South Africa, we played three fast bowlers. It was an unusual thing but was successful. We will take a call after having a look at the wicket if we go with two fast bowlers or three fast bowlers.”

Arothe called for patience as India continue to work on one of the chinks in their armour, the lower order, which came for much criticism in South Africa. Recently, skipper Mithali Raj also called for the bottom half to support the top-order’s consistent displays, “Our lower order is a bit weak but our top order has been so good that we didn’t need our lower order (to fire). But at the same, the lower order must also contribute.”

“All the team members are getting batting in the nets. Before going to South Africa, we simulated match situations and all members batted during that. But everything takes a bit of time, you need to be a little patient. We are hoping that in coming years, our lower order will be a lot better than what it was earlier,” Arothe said.

Fielding also remains a work-in-progress for India: “I know we have not been consistent in the field but we are working really hard on it. We are confident of the girls and are expecting positive results.”

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