India’s batting let them down again as they crashed to a four-wicket defeat against England in the tri-nation T20 International series. In skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s post-match chat, one heard the familiar refrain about how the batting needs to do better.
It is a familiar problem, yet it is is one that doesn’t seem to be going away and as the T20 World Cup draws closer. Coach WV Raman and skipper Kaur will be worried. The bowling, the spinners in particular, are in a very good zone but T20 games are not won with bowling alone.
On Friday, India got off to a good start with Smriti Mandhana timing the ball very well. She was finding the boundary with a fair bit of ease – she turned out to be the only Indian batter to do so – but the left-hander was unable to rotate the strike and that saw her opening partner, Shafali Verma, face just nine balls during their 39-run partnership that lasted 5.5 overs.
When Verma and Mandhana are striking it well, they usually deal in boundaries but both batters also tend to hog the strike. They are not great between the wickets, often finding ways to convert twos into ones and that only adds to the problem.
So perhaps a few experiments with the batting line-up should be considered:
1. Bat Harmanpreet up the order?
The Indian skipper is clearly India’s best batter in the format. But it is no secret, the opposition has even been saying it during on-field commentary, that she takes a while to get going. So does it make sense to have her come up the order? She has stated in the past that she does not like batting during the powerplay overs but she is India’s best chance to getting a good total. In T20 cricket, teams usually choose to give their best batter as much time in the middle as possible. Given how short the format is, the logic is simple: good batter + more balls = more runs. So is it time to consider sending Kaur up the order especially if the openers have got the team off to a good start? In the match against England, Kaur only came in to bat after 9.5 overs. That isn’t enough time for her in the middle to make an impact; certainly not with any regularity. Also, when she does bat in her usual position, she ends up batting with Taniya Bhatia (who averages 8.53 in T20Is) and Veda Krishnamurthy (whose batting has proved to be a bad gamble in recent times) and that proves to be counter-productive to India’s eventual goal. If Kaur can have proper batters at the other end, she might feel more comfortable playing her natural game.
2. Rodrigues as opener
Rodrigues doesn’t have the power to smash the ball like Verma can but she can pick the gaps and rotate the strike pretty well. She has opened with Mandhana in ODIs and they share a good rapport too. She needs to keep one end going and that will allow Madhana and Kaur to concentrate on their game without worrying about the rest of the batting order. Having her at three after a good start doesn’t quite work. Against England, India scored more runs in boundaries than their opponents, 58 as compared to England’s 50, but they also played 53 dot balls – that is almost half the innings and any team that does that will struggle to win matches. If India had scored off even half of them, their spinners would have been able to exert greater influence on the match and maybe even change the result.
3. Verma as the finisher
While Kaur takes a while to get going no matter when she comes out to bat, Verma has shown herself to be a quick starter. The youngster does not need a second invitation to play the big shot. In a way, she would be perfect as the finisher…come in and start swinging away without any inhibition. There is the matter of her being perhaps even more effective in the powerplay overs but given how she hits the ball, it really shouldn’t matter. The form of Krishnamurthy and Bhatia remains an issue but this arrangement might give India’s batting a better balance.
India’s spinners are bowling so well but if the batters can’t get runs on the board it won’t really matter. Some might consider it too late to experiment with the batting order but for a team that doesn’t have too many options, this might be the only way up.