CHENNAI: In their last home series of the year, against South Africa, the Indian women’s team seemed more focussed on T20Is rather than ODIs. That’s understandable, with the World T20 drawing closer. Not to mention these three ODIs not being part of the Women’s Championship. There was no Smriti Mandhana, and the buzz was lesser.
But the performance of Mithali Raj’s team in Vadodara proved that they did not take these games lightly. From Jhulan Goswami striking on the very first delivery of the series to bowlers guiding the team to six-run win in a low-scoring thriller en route a 3-0 whitewash on Monday, the intent was evident. Undoubtedly, the spinners played a big part. The hosts bowled out South Africa for below-par totals of 164 and 140 in the first and third games. The trio of Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav and Deepti Sharma accounted for 14 wickets.
But there were individual performances that offered oases of optimism heading into the next series in West Indies. Having played impressive knocks in the domestic circuit, 23-year-old Priya Punia grabbed the opportunity with both hands to score an unbeaten 75 in her maiden ODI. Though Priya and Jemimah Rodrigues — who also hit a fifty in the first match — got out inside 13 overs in the last two matches, Mithali believes they will get better with time.“Priya and Jemimah are a young pair. It is exposure for them. Sometimes you need to settle down because the conditions are challenging. That’ll come with experience.”
It was also an important series for Harmanpreet Kaur, who has looked out of sorts in the recent past. Her last ODI fifty came against the same opponents last February. She made a valuable 39 not out off 27 balls and 38 in the second and third matches, respectively. The India T20 skipper also shared a 49-run stand with Shikha Pandey (35) after a batting collapse that helped India post 146 on Monday.That apart, if there is an aspect that Mithali & Co would be keen to better, it is the contribution from their lower-middle order. The skipper acknowledged the need to work on this aspect.
“Those were crucial runs (from Shikha). I’m sure these innings will help other bowlers to step up. Usually when matches go down to the wire, it is the bowlers’ runs scored that make the difference. Having said that, we need to work on the lower-middle-order.”With the West Indies series beginning on November 1, India will be keen to carry forward this momentum.
India 146 in 45.5 ovs (Harmanpreet 38, Shikha 35; Kapp 3/20) bt SA 140 in 48 ovs (Ekta 3/32). India win series 3-0.