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Chance for Kaur & Co to let bygones be bygones in 2024- The Uncut

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The Uncut

CHENNAI:  The last ten overs of the second ODI between India and Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on December 30th was a  familiar viewing for those who have closely followed these two teams over the last few years.

With a required run rate near six runs per over, India would lose the set batters, leading to a panic, collapse, and Australia winning the match with a margin of single-digit score. The fans have seen it on more than one occasion. The defeats in the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medal match in Edgbaston and the semifinal of the 2023 T20 World Cup in South Africa were ‘so near but so far’ for the same reasons.

Fresh off the red-ball success against England and Australia, expectations were high from the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side in the ODIs even though the record was against them. Even with Australia never losing a bilateral ODI series against India, this was probably one of their best opportunities in the format, given the transition the opposition is going through. In their first ODI series under the new leadership duo of Alyssa Healy and Tahlia McGrath, Australia were at their weakest in recent times given Jess Jonassen and Megan Schutt, two experienced bowlers, didn’t find a place in the playing XI. However, India ended up on the losing side in the close encounter yet again.

Understandably, India, under the new coach Amol Muzumdar, are trying to give opportunity to every player on the roster. The coach himself made it clear during his first media interaction since taking over the duties. The second ODI saw some changes with Shafali Verma getting dropped from the playing XI and the team management sticking with Richa Ghosh at three. Ghosh, known for her hard-hitting skills in the lower order, got the promotion to number three and showcased what she is capable of.

“We believe that she can be a good top-order player. We believe in her talent and you have seen what kind of shots she can play. She can use the first ten overs and play according to the situation. That’s the best spot for her. At least now, we feel that Richa at No. 3 is a very good choice,” Muzumdar said after the second fixture. Jemimah Rodrigues, who has looked primed to make the number five position of her own batted out of position to accommodate the needs of the team, and contributed with the partnership of 88 runs with Ghosh.

It was a familiar problem of the lower-middle order not rising to the occasion. Since the end of the ODI World Cup in April 2022, none of the batters in the lower-middle order have a strike rate above 100. The players, who have batted in these positions, are generally known to bat well, but they have not performed at their best in this World Cup cycle so far. With two ICC events in the subcontinent in two back-to-back years, facing Australia is probably the hardest test there is for the team.

Muzumdar is getting to know more of the team and players with each fixture. Facing England and Australia as his first series at the helm was certainly a big challenge. The red-ball success has showcased what Kaur’s side is capable of. If they can dust themselves off and learn from their past mistakes, there is a big carrot dangling in front of them in September this year. There is still a lot of time to go till the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh, but one would hope for more changes with the change of calendar.

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