CHENNAI: What a year of hiatus can do to players! While it helped some athletes fine-tune their skills and work on the technical flaws, it left many rusty and under-prepared. India women's 1-4 ODI defeat to South Africa at home on Wednesday indicated that they belong to the second category and a lot of work needs to be done before the World Cup next year. Given that it was their first international series in a year, head coach WV Raman attributed this loss to lack of mental stamina and cricketing fitness.
Lack of conditioning camp to prepare as a unit was something even skipper Mithali Raj stressed for the loss. On the other hand, South Africa, which outplayed the hosts in almost all the department, were coming off a limited over series against Pakistan at home.
"What transpired in this series is very simple: the girls lacked the game time and they are obviously short on mental stamina and the cricketing fitness," said Raman, after India's five-wicket defeat in the fifth and final ODI, having set a target of 189, in Lucknow.
"It is not easy to come back after 15 months and play a one-day series and retain the focus and intensity that is required to put the opposition under pressure. Yes, these things do happen to the best of the teams and the best of the players. And I'm sure the girls would have realised what was missing and work on it. I have seen them do it in the past and I am sure they will do it in the future too," he elaborated.
Though takeaways came in the form of individual performances in Punam Raut, Mithali, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jhulan Goswami, it was evident that India were below par in bowling and fielding. The spin department, which is considered the hosts' crucial weapon, toiled on flat wickets. Rajeshwari Gayakwad found her mojo in the fifth ODI to end the series with eight wickets. However, the spin mainstay Poonam Yadav went wicketless in four matches while Deepti Sharma accounted for just one.
Raman believes that playing more matches will only help them find their lost rhythm. "What probably did not go in our favour was that the bowlers could not be consistent. There is no blaming them at all because it was expected," added the head coach.
"The bowlers will get into the groove, as they play more and get more game time. The fact that Rajeshwari (3/13) has managed to do that coming into this game is a positive. That's what I meant earlier when I said the bowlers need to get into their groove as far as bowling is concerned. That'll only happen as they play more and more."
Given that the World Cup is scheduled for next February-March in New Zealand, where the conditions will not be suitable for spin, Raman said that India wanted to see how they fare on flat tracks and prepare the bowlers accordingly.
"Yes, this (finding the rhythm) is definitely something the girls will work on, quite a lot of activities going forward which will also help them to achieve that. I'm sure it won't be too long before all of them get into their rhythm and perform. The other fact is that we also wanted to play on flat tracks because that is something which might come up when we go abroad. So it's all a part of having to adapt and adjust to conditions that they may get when they go abroad."