Tuesday, June 25, 2024

IND-W v ENG-W: Focus on batters as Indians step into the unknown of red-ball cricket after nine years

Besides the advantage of playing in home conditions, the Indian women’s cricket team will bank on recent good performances in all formats of the game to help them when it takes on England Women in a four-day one-off Test at the DY Patil Stadium here from Thursday.

With the team not playing a red-ball match in the last couple of years, most of the players in the squad do not have much experience of this format and therefore they are planning to just go into the field and take things as they come.

But there are still some positives for the Indian women’s team when it comes to the record book as India enjoys a favorable head-to-head record against England.

In more than four decades since they started playing Test cricket, India Women have played only 14 matches against England, winning two matches and losing one as 11 games have ended in stalemate.

However, India Women have played England only five times at home, losing one and drawing four matches. The last time the two countries played in India was in November 2005, which ended in a draw. Their last clash in Test matches — at Bristol in July 2021 — too had ended in a draw.

With women’s Test matches interspersed by huge gaps, the players are themselves not sure how much advantage past performances and records will give them.

However, one thing is sure — the one-off Test against England Women is historic in the sense it is the first longer-version game being played in India since 2014, when India hosted South Africa Women at Mysore, winning it by an innings and 34 runs.

It is also historic for England and it will be their 100th Test considering that a few of their Test matches got abandoned because of weather.

England skipper Heather Knight said they have not given much thought to past records and history because they do not have much experience of playing red-ball cricket in India. England last toured India for white-ball cricket in 2019 and some of their players including Heather Knight figured in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) earlier this year and played their matches in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

They are looked up to that experience to help them adjust to the conditions when they take on India at the DY Patil Stadium. Playing in the hot and humid conditions in India would be a big challenge for the girls who usually expect to see a couple of sessions getting impacted by rain when they play red-ball cricket at home.

The Indians have their own issues to tackle. Many of their young players don’t have much experience playing red-ball cricket at home as only skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and her deputy Smriti Mandhana were part of the squad when India played the Mysore Test against South Africa in 2014. Around 5-6 players in the squad figured in the pink-ball Test in Australia two years back.

Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur said they will be trying to help the youngsters with their experience of playing red-ball cricket and they have also discussed a lot with Head Coach Amol Muzumdar, who has vast experience of playing the multi-day format at the domestic level.

England skipper Heather Knight said the fact that they have played a red-ball match this year while the Indians have not in two years, will be a plus point for them.

“It will definitely be a plus for us as we the players have taken their learnings from that match. But we don’t have much experience of playing Tests in India and therefore we are going to take things as they come,” she said in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

Knight said considering the pitch, they are likely to go with an extra bowler. England will also have to decide on an opener to partner with Tammy Beaumont as Emma Lamb, who opened in the Ashes Test against Australia, is not in the side. England will be looking to their top batters Beaumont, Knight and Nat Sciver-Brunt to help them put up a big score. Beaumont scored a double century in that match against Australia in June this year, which incidentally England lost by 89 runs at Nottingham.

The Indians will be banking on their aggressive batters like Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, who scored a patient 66 against Australia, and Smriti Mandhana, who struck a 216-ball 127 in that match played at Carrara Oval.

Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur did not play that match due to an injury while the Indians will also miss the assured presence of the legendary Mithali Raj in the middle order and pacer Jhulan Goswami as opening bowler, both of whom have since retired from all formats of cricket since India’s last red-ball game,

However, they do have some exciting players in their squad like middle-order batter Jemimah Rodrigues, pacer Titas Sadhu and young spinner Saika Ishaque, if they get to make their red-ball debut.

In all, a lot depends on this match and the next one against Australia in a week for the Indian women’s team as it is playing back-to-back Test matches for the first time and good performances and positive results in both the matches will give women’s red-ball cricket the timely fillip that it needs.

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