Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav bowled India to an upset 17-run win over defending champions Australia in the opening game of the women’s Twenty20 World Cup in Sydney on Friday.
India were restricted to 132/4 off their 20 overs before a half-century from Australian opener Alyssa Healy appeared to have put the home team on track for victory.
But then Yadav was brought into the attack.
Voted India’s top female player last year, she bagged the crucial wickets of Healy, Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Perry, and was desperately unlucky not to grab a hat-trick in her match-winning 4-19.
Alyssa, where did that go wrong tonight? It seemed reasonably in hand with you going well. Can you put your finger on what happened?
ALYSSA HEALY: Probably me getting out wasn’t ideal. I think you probably needed sort of a match-winning score there. But yeah, I think we probably didn’t chase as smart as what we have in the past. I think full credit to Poonam Yadav; I thought she bowled quite cleverly tonight. We obviously prepared for her, but just didn’t play her very well tonight and sort of lost our way in the middle.
I think when only two batters get over double figures, you’re not going to chase down a total too many times. Yeah, we just couldn’t build a partnership, and that’s probably where we fell away.
Do you think the fact she was injured during the Tri-Series and didn’t play, has that played a part tonight? I know you’ve seen her before but you haven’t seen her for a little while.
ALYSSA HEALY: To be fair, I didn’t know she was injured during that, so I thought it was tactical not letting us face her in that series. Look, we prepared really well for her. She bowled that first over pretty regulation as a leg spinner and then slowed it up immensely after that, so we probably just didn’t adapt to that well enough tonight. But yeah, like I said, we’ve planned for that. We just didn’t probably play as smart as what we should have.
Alyssa, there’s been a lot said about your form over the past couple of weeks. Was it nice to get away the way you did today and sort of give you extra confidence or did you need that extra confidence?
ALYSSA HEALY: Oh, it’ll probably give me a little extra confidence, but I’ve said all along I felt like I’ve been hitting the ball all right, just finding ways to get out. So tonight was obviously pleasing to be able to put some runs out there. Obviously would have loved to win the match for my side, but I guess I can take some confidence out of being able to build a little block of runs for myself. But yeah, look, obviously (I am) disappointed not to be able to be there, not out at the end and get the team over the line.
You guys have been asked about this World Cup for more than two years now. Did you sort of feel that expectation or that pressure more than previous games?
ALYSSA HEALY: No real extra pressure or expectation. There were a few nerves out there today, and you’d be silly if you weren’t nervous, I think, walking out and there’s 14,000 people, mainly cheering for India, but cheering for Australia, as well. It was a really special moment for everyone, and yeah, there were nerves, but it was also a level of excitement from the group that this was all happening and it was finally here and we were playing. I thought whilst India got off to a pretty good start with the bat, we pegged them back really well and just settled in to what we normally do with our bowling. And I thought we did really well to restrict them to that total, and obviously just let ourselves down with the bat.
You’ve played at this ground only once before. Taking the T20 World Cup to almost 14,000 people, has that almost forced you guys to play at a venue which you had no information about practically, and is it a surface that suited your style of play?
ALYSSA HEALY: Look, I think we had plenty of information on what the wicket was going to do. The Thunder play here quite regularly. We played a practice game leading into the Tri-Series here. We knew what it was going to do. We knew how it was going to play, and I just think we didn’t play it that smart tonight.
I think we sort of potentially went out there thinking it was a really flat wicket and played some shots that we probably shouldn’t have. I think most of the wickets that fell today were batters playing across the line in both innings. For us we’ll probably just have a look at that and potentially say we didn’t adapt to conditions as well as what we had hoped. It was fantastic to be able to play in a nice stadium with 14,000 people. I think we don’t really get that opportunity very often. To get that tonight, I’d take that any day with a low, slow wicket. Just to experience that tonight was pretty cool.
This is a record attendance for a Women’s T20.
ALYSSA HEALY: Yes, it’s the start. It’s the start of the tournament, and there’s obviously some big talk about what’s going to happen at the back end of the tournament, but it’s nice to be able to start this way and see so many people out here, especially young kids out here supporting both sides. I think that was really special.
You said you prepared for Poonam Yadav. It’s hard to prepare for her because of her height. You see England prepare in a unique way where Ali Maiden goes down on one knee and bowls from that kind of a height. Do you guys prepare in any different way for her?
ALYSSA HEALY: Yeah, we did. I suppose it’s more talk and what each individual batter is going to potentially do to combat that. Obviously we don’t get leg spinners coming out at 60 kilometers an hour very often, and she’s incredibly skilful at that. It was more the individual batters. And look, we’ve got a lot of right-left-handed combinations in our side, and we like to think that can combat a lot of spin attacks, but obviously it didn’t pay off tonight, but we’ll just review that and see what we can do better.
Obviously that puts a lot of pressure on now, with three must-win games remaining in the group?
ALYSSA HEALY: We’ll have a bit of pressure, that’s fine. Look, we always talk about you can’t go through this tournament undefeated. Obviously you don’t want to lose the first game, but you often take more out of a loss than what you do with a win or a scratchy win in that scenario. We’ll take all the positives we can out of that, obviously put the negatives aside, and probably one of the blessings of our really crazy schedule is we don’t have a lot of time to think about it and dwell on it. We’ll just go out there at the WACA against Sri Lanka and hopefully put another good performance on the board and get a win hopefully.
Molly Strano playing tonight, she wasn’t even in the squad earlier in week. What did you make of her performance?
ALYSSA HEALY: Yeah, she did an outstanding job. Obviously coming into the side last minute, obviously for Tay, like for like, take it as you will, but yeah, it was a great performance from her. Obviously she’s in the side for that new ball bowling up front, and she’s done what she’s done throughout the whole five seasons of WBBL. She’s done an outstanding job, and I think she’ll play a crucial role for us in this tournament moving forward.
Has coach or captain kind of got the group together yet and spoken, and what’s the message?
ALYSSA HEALY: About today? No, not yet. I’m not sure; I’ve been whistled about here, there and everywhere, so I haven’t heard anything. But look, like I said, we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it, dwell on the loss. We’ll take the learnings, we’ll speak about that and how we can potentially be better in certain situations. But look, we’ll jump on a plane nice and early to Perth tomorrow and get stuck into preparing for Sri Lanka.
Given the predicament you find yourself in now, needing to go undefeated, how important is it when you play against Sri Lanka, girls like Chamari Atapattu, you don’t let them get away because obviously in T20 cricket one batter can take a game away and it’ll be curtains.
ALYSSA HEALY: Yeah, 100 per cent. She’s obviously in some good form, too. They just beat England by 10 wickets, so we’re not taking any team in our group lightly. I think it’s a really tough pool and we love that, and we love going into some really tough contests. Yeah, look, we won’t take any of their batters lightly. Chamari Atapattu loves facing our attack. She’s hit us to all parts around the ground over the last couple of years in World Cup. Look, we’ll just prepare the best we can and get our plans in place, and I know that if we execute them that we’ll be okay. But in saying that, we’ve got to do that.
Were you a little bit taken aback by Shafali Verma’s approach at the top of the innings? Did it surprise you at all?
ALYSSA HEALY: Not one bit. She doesn’t hold back, and I think it’s fantastic to watch as a fan of the game that a young player is completely fearless and comes out and plays like that and approaches the innings like that. I think she sets up the game really nicely for India if she comes off. No surprises from us. I thought we actually bowled pretty well to her and almost executed our plans to her. I think when we got too full, she was able to hit down the ground. But when we executed, we found a wicket.
Full credit to our bowling attack. I think they’re naturally going to come out and take the game to us, but I think we held strong there and were able to climb back in the game after getting a couple of wickets early.
And just on Yadav again, you mentioned you prepared well, but do you think you underestimated her?
ALYSSA HEALY: Not one bit, no. We know how skillful she is. She’s been taking wickets in this format, in the one-day format for a long period of time, so I don’t think at any point we underestimated her. I just don’t think that we played her that smart tonight.
You mentioned WBBL, and one player that we haven’t seen in WBBL is Poonam. Despite being the highest wicket taker in T20 internationals since 2018. Do you think that might change after tonight?
ALYSSA HEALY: Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see. You’ll have to ask all the general managers as to who they’ve got on their list for the next few years. I think it’s great to probably have another legspinner in the competition. We saw Amelia Kerr come in last year and have a really great impact for the Brisbane Heat. So yeah, look out; Poonham might be running around for a side.