Harmanpreet Kaur believes that a lack of adequate game time in the longest format in the lead-up to India Women’s return to Test cricket after nearly seven years can be offset in some measure by cultivating a positive outlook and heeding advice received from Ajinkya Rahane.
“I’ve played only two red-ball matches [in international cricket]. As a batting group when we have a discussion… this time we got a chance to speak to Rahane as well,” Kaur, the India Test vice-captain, said of her “easy and friendly talk” with her male counterpart in Southampton, where both the Indian teams served a hard quarantine upon arriving in the UK on June 3. “He shared his knowledge with us as to how to approach batting in the longest format and how one should divide their innings into parts.
“We may not have much practice under our belt [going into the Test], but mentally [we are prepared]. We’ve discussed a lot of things so we prepare ourselves well for the match. Even in the nets, we’ve tried to be in a good frame of mind because when you are happy, other than thinking too much about your batting, you tend to play well.”
The women’s team arrived in Bristol on Monday for the one-off Test against hosts England that begins on Wednesday. The opening fixture of a seven-match multi-format assignment, the Test marks India’s first outing in the format since the one-off Test at home against South Africa in November 2014. On the domestic circuit, the last multi-day women’s competition – the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game – was held in March-April 2018, in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kaur admitted that inadequate preparedness heading into the tour wasn’t ideal, but welcomed the revival of Test cricket for her team.
“Whatever time we’ve got [since coming out of quarantine], we’ve tried to simulate match scenarios as much as possible and tried to keep ourselves in the best frame of mind,” Kaur said. “We didn’t get much time to prepare, or any practice games. Individually, it’s imperative to adapt to the situation.
“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17″
Harmanpreet Kaur is all for letting Shafali Verma develop her own way
“The surfaces are different to what we get in India. We’ve practised against the swinging ball in the nets. We have a further two days – today and tomorrow – to prepare ourselves better for the match, so I hope we’ll be able to do that well.
“It’s a totally different scenario [to playing with the white ball]. I know we didn’t even get any domestic games with the red ball. In the upcoming season and years we’ll get more red-ball cricket also, which is a very good sign for us.”
As with Tests in the Women’s Ashes, the Bristol Test will feature the use of the Kookaburra red ball (the Dukes ball is usually used in England), with England captain Heather Knight saying last week that “we’re going to be using a Kookaburra in this match because that’s what we’re going to be using in the Ashes and it’s no secret this Test match is a huge part of our preparation going into that Ashes series and that Ashes Test match away from home.”
Kaur said that in the practice sessions India have had so far, the Kookaburra didn’t pose much challenge.
“Dealing with a Kookaburra didn’t feel too different because the ball size and weight is roughly the same [as the white ball we use in limited-overs cricket]. The last time we played [a Test], we felt the red ball was a bit heavier than the white variant, which makes you rely on your timing more. But the Kookaburra white and red ball feels the same; just the colour is different. We felt good playing with it because when you’re in whites and you play with the red ball, it’s a totally different feeling.”
When asked about the likelihood of 17-year-old big-hitter Shafali Verma making her debut on Wednesday, Kaur stressed that it was important for the senior players and the team management to refrain from talking shop too much with the young batter.
“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17 years old,” Kaur said. “To burden her with too many thoughts isn’t the right thing.
“All of us try to create a good environment for her to be able to feel less pressured and be able to enjoy her cricket well. She was looking great in the nets, and I hope if she gets a chance to play she’ll do better.”
As regards Jhulan Goswami, the senior-most bowler in the Indian attack, Kaur was hopeful that the 38-year-old pacer would replicate in this Test the consistency and success that’s been a hallmark of her nearly two-decade-long international career.
“She is someone who always takes the lead whenever we’re on the field,” Kaur said. “She’s always [been] special for us because her quota [of overs] is [important]. She will always give us breakthroughs whenever we need. Not only her but all the bowlers are very important because in Test matches you need breakthroughs, and I think she will be fantastic in this match also.”
The tour of England is also returning head coach Ramesh Powar‘s first assignment since replacing WV Raman in the role last month. Kaur, who is also India’s T20I captain, said her interactions with Powar on the ongoing tour had been no different to those during his first stint in the position which ended with the 2018 T20 World Cup, following a high-profile controversy involving himself, ODI captain Mithali Raj, Kaur, T20I vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, and several members of the now-defunct Committee of Administrators that was overseeing the BCCI.
“My interactions with him have been the same [as before]. He is someone who’s involved in the game all the time and expects the same of the players. Whenever you speak to him, you feel like you’re in a match. He asks you to imagine yourself in a match situation and figure out how you would react to it.
“I get a lot of information speaking to him because he, too, has played a lot of cricket, including T20 cricket. So the experience is the same. Whatever we had done in 2018, we are repeating those things now as well.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Men’s Hundred – Eoin Morgan
Middle order failing to fire, absence of three members of Test squad, Maxwell’s relatively late withdrawal hurt winless London Spirit
But five games into their first season, the Spirit have been the Hundred’s weakest side. They are the only side in the men’s competition yet to win a game, and were thrashed in their fourth and final home fixture (one was a washout) by Northern Superchargers on Tuesday night. The table is still tight enough that they are mathematically in the running, but any realistic chances of qualifying for knockout stages have dissipated.
Their first three defeats were all tight, with each game going down to the final set of five balls. At Edgbaston, they were just short of par in setting Birmingham Phoenix 145 to win, and in the home losses against Trent Rockets and Southern Brave, they were two boundaries away from getting across the line.
“I think throughout tournaments, and group stages, you will be beaten by better sides. There are very few instances when sides go unbeaten throughout a tournament. Where the problem for us lies is that the previous two games we played, we played well for the majority but in clinical parts of the game, we didn’t finish the job and that’s hurt us.”
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of their struggles has been the fact that the squad they assembled does not look like it was built with the long term in mind. While some sides have openly admitted that their draft strategy was to assemble a group that could develop over a number of years rather than simply targeting success in the Hundred’s first season, the Spirit picked a number of veterans and looked – to borrow terminology from the NFL – like a ‘win-now’ team.
All three players were signed as part of the draft in October 2019, rather than through the separate Test player mechanism. None of them held a red-ball central contract at the time – Crawley and Lawrence were both uncapped – and while it was not out of the question that they might miss some games due to inclusion in a Test squad in future seasons, the Spirit were unfortunate to miss all three simultaneously for the majority of this year. To make matters worse, one of the two games for which Crawley and Lawrence were both available was washed out.
“I think every team has gone through it, losing players, particularly their Test guys,” Morgan said. “It’s been challenging, but other sides have found a way. We’ve recruited well, we just haven’t managed to get over the line.
“We haven’t done a lot of things wrong in the previous games that we’ve played. Every game we’d played had gone right down to the wire but to be up there with the pace, you’re doing a lot of positive things. Today [against the Superchargers], we were just beaten.”
But the upshot is that the Spirit are the first men’s team facing a post-mortem into a season that has represented something of a false start. Mason Crane and Blake Cullen have shown flickers of promise with the ball, but positives for future years have been relatively hard to come by. Warne, who missed their last two games after testing positive for Covid-19, tweeted from self-isolation that their defeats against the Rockets and the Brave had been “embarrassing” – his verdict on the season to date is unlikely to be any more favourable.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
Bangladesh vs Australia T20Is, 2021
The 1994 tour to Pakistan was the last time a full series was not available to viewers in Australia
For the first time since 1994 a tour by the Australia men’s team will not broadcast into Australia after a last-minute deal failed to materialise for the rights to the T20I series in Bangladesh.
It had been hoped that in the absence of a traditional television deal the series would be streamed on YouTube but there was no live coverage into Australia.
While the occasional one-off limited-overs match has not been seen in Australia over the last few years, it is not since the 1994 tour of Pakistan that an entire series won’t have been shown.
The majority of Australia’s tours are broadcast by Fox Sports who secured the recent series against West Indies just a couple of days before it started but a similar outcome has not happened for Bangladesh.
The ongoing Olympics that is taking most of the attention, the 1am finish time of the matches in Bangladesh and the fact Australia are missing a host of first-choice players may also have been factors in the attractiveness of the series. However, it also highlights what is likely to become an increasingly challenging broadcast market, particularly for perceived lower-key tours.
The series will be the last chance for both sides to work on plans and assess players ahead of the T20 World Cup in October. It was confirmed on Monday that Bangladesh’s proposed series against England of three T20Is and three ODIs in late September had been postponed until March 2023.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
IPL 2021 – Eoin Morgan to return to Kolkata Knight Riders for second half of IPL
He says involvement of other England players in the tournament, scheduled in September-October in the UAE, was a matter of personal choice
England were due to play three ODIs and three T20Is in Bangladesh in September-October but the ECB and the BCB released statements on Tuesday morning confirming that they had “mutually decided” to postpone the tour until March 2023. The IPL is due to resume on September 19 after its postponement midway through the season earlier this year, with the tour’s postponement opening up the opportunity for England’s white-ball players to take part ahead of the T20 World Cup in the UAE.
Speaking after his London Spirit side were beaten by Northern Superchargers in the Hundred at Lord’s on Tuesday night, Morgan confirmed that he intends to return to captain the Knight Riders in the rest of the IPL, and said that the involvement of other England players with contracts in the tournament was a matter of personal choice.
“It’s a complete individual decision,” Morgan said. “I think it was a win-win either way. If we went to Bangladesh we’d play in conditions that are foreign to us. If some guys go to the IPL, they’ll play in similar conditions [to the World Cup] or for guys that need a rest, they take a rest.
“We’ve a lot of cricket to play between now and then. We’ve planned on the tour going ahead – that’s been part of our planning for a long time now – but equally, given the nature in which we now compete and live our lives, it’s not a bad thing for guys to either take time off or go to the IPL if they feel refreshed and have enough energy.”
England’s only two remaining T20I fixtures before the World Cup starts on October 17 are due to be played in Pakistan on October 14 and 15, with the ECB and the PCB both confident that the tour will go ahead. The IPL final is also due to be played on October 15, creating a possible clash for any players whose franchises reach that stage of the tournament.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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