Monday, December 5, 2022
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IND v PAK – 2022 Asia Cup

Why did Harmanpreet Kaur go as low as No. 7? Why did Pooja Vastrakar, a finisher, send over the order in the 10th, for Richa Ghosh? Is India too dependent on Smriti Mandhana?

The logic of cricket would suggest that these questions are perfectly legitimate, especially after losing to a team whose win-loss ratio was the combined lowest of the top 12 teams since the start of 2021. If that team happens to be Pakistan, and you’re India, any tactical move that doesn’t work out can be further investigated. But there’s more going on here.

In the match, India’s team management took a unanimous decision to “try out combinations”; to “pressurize younger players” and see how they react. Also, this loss in itself will not affect their chances of qualifying for the Asian Cup final – India is still number 1 on the points list and could consolidate their position when they play against Bangladesh on Saturday afternoon.

“We didn’t want our regular pursuers to come in, but we tried out a youngster who can take on that role,” head coach Ramesh Powar said at the post-match press conference. “This was our fourth game” [of the tournament] and we wanted Pooja Vastrakar, Richa Ghosh and . unmask [Dayalan] Hemalatha, watch them get through these pressures.

“Harman Preet” [Kaur]jemi [Jemimah Rodrigues] and Smriti [Mandhana] have been doing it for a long time. The goal was to send the others up there so that they can feel that pressure, because we want to see how they react to such situations, especially when they might have to deal with it in a World Cup match. So we wanted to take a chance and tackle the problem.”

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“Most players have played enough to understand the importance of a match between India and Pakistan. They also understand where we are in the rankings and why we did it.”

Powar was then asked if there was ever any consideration that this could backfire, to which he said that India, which was at the top of the table – they had three wins in three in this match – offered them the luxury of a … recast ( He didn’t want it to be called “experimentation.”)

“Six league games allow us to do that,” Powar reasoned. “If this was a format with two groups and four teams in each, we might not have tried it. We want to build our team for all conditions and all kinds of pressure situations. Of course we want to win, but if we have problems that need to be addressed, we tackle.”

Was there any fear of trying this in a “big game”? “Not really,” said Powar. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have tried other things. Most players have played enough to understand the importance of an India-Pakistan match. They also understand where we are in the rankings and why we did it.”

“This is not something that only the team management thinks. We came together as a group and thought we had to endure difficult situations under pressure with different set of race winners, not just Jemi, Smriti or Harman. We are confident [in the younger players]that’s why we tried.”

Powar reiterated that this was “not a setback” and gave credit where necessary. He was particularly effusive in his praise of Nida Dar and the way she ripped India’s bowlers apart to make an unbeaten 56 from just 37 balls.

“I have to congratulate Pakistan for the way they have beaten,” he said. “That was a few innings from their half-centuries. They played a good kind of cricket, had the upper hand in most phases of the game. They dropped a few catches, but also took some good ones.”

India will be back on the pitch in less than 24 hours to defeat defending champions Bangladesh in their fifth match. This can be demanding, especially given the oppressive heat in Sylhet. On Friday, Ghosh walked off the field with cramps and Shafali Verma had to hold the wicket in place. Given all that, Powar has confirmed that India will return to their usual plans.

“They are a good side, champions from last time, and we consider them as a compact unit,” he said. “But we are also coming off a good season, with the confidence of Sri Lanka, CWG [where India were silver medalists] and a 3-0 sweep [ODI series] in England. We make sure we are grounded and focused in all departments. We don’t think about who we play, we plan our schedule against a specific type of batters or bowlers. In the next game we will return to our routine.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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