India Women's captain Mithali Raj has urged her batting as well as bowling unit to get their act together after Australia inflicted an embarrassing whitewash in Vadodara on Sunday. The hosts conceded all six points of the ICC Women's Championship on offer after crashing to eight-wicket, 60-run and 97-run defeats in the three-match ODIs series, while Australia reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the ICC Team Rankings for women that takes into account the performances in all three formats.
"Our fast-bowling unit lacked experience... and that [reflected] very starkly in these ODIs. When you play against a good side, you don't get anything easy. There is a lot we need to work on, it's been an eye-opener for all the girls," Raj said after India's third successive loss in a week.
"Even though we have beaten South Africa, it was not going to be easy against Australia, or England, who I believe also have a very good squad. As Indian team, we need to understand our strengths [batting] and make that [department] even stronger [so that] it overshadows the other department that has lackings. [That's something] we couldn't do in these three one-day games. Bowling wasn't supportive, nor did our batting come good. At least one department needs to click," she stated.
Raj singled out contributions from lower order as the primary reason why Australia outscored India in their own backyard. Australia's No. 6, 7 and 8 - Beth Mooney (90), Ashleigh Gardner (40) and Nicola Carey (33) - have made it count at some point in the series. Of their Indian counterparts, only Sushma Verma had shown some consistency with scores of 41 and 30 in game one and three. While the wayward bowling had a lot to do with it, Raj said it offsets the balance by putting the top-order under undue pressure to account for the runs that the lower order batters should ideally be chipping in with.
"In every game, one of their openers have made a major contribution, [and] having said that, even their middle-order didn't pitch in. But they had the lower middle-order contributing till the end. I think that's where we haven't bowled according to the plan that we wanted to execute on the ground. When you set the field on one side and bowl on the other and it's costing you boundaries after boundaries, you can't do much," Raj stated when asked what separated the two teams.
"There were occasions where we were far ahead [in run-rate at the top]. It's only from the powerplay till the 50th over [where] they have those big hitters, which we don't have in our batting order, [that's making the difference]. We have to start from the beginning to have that net run rate going for us, because we know in lower-order we don't have big-hitters in our side who can change match scenario," she lamented.
While Raj didn't seem overtly concerned with the lack of runs from her deputy Harmanpreet Kaur's willow, she did want Veda Krishnamurthy, who was dropped after two successive failures earlier in the series, to take more responsibility given the volatility of the middle order.
"It's just how we have given Jemimah [Rodrigues] a chance today," Raj said on the surprise inclusion of Mona Meshram ahead of Veda. "There are some players who need to sit out for a game, realise where they have gone wrong. We definitely haven't doubted the calibre of Veda Krishnamurthy. She has played those innings [in the past] but in the second match, the way she got out at a time when... we required her to be little more responsible," she reasoned.
Raj also stated that with a jam-packed season ahead of the team, India would be looking at expanding their talent pool and building a stronger bench-strength, though in the series that are outside the ICC Women's Championship structure.
"See where the ICC Championship is concerned, the points are very important. But if the points system is not in place on a tour, then we can definitely give more opportunities to the players who have not had a great outing," she said. "And definitely [to] young players who we think have the ability to play in future for India. We want to give them that experience so that whenever they get that opportunity to debut (play big games) for India, they're in a better frame of mind.
"It will take some time, but we do have few players [waiting] in the wings who we are looking at. In another two-three years, [definitely] by the 2021 World Cup, I'm sure they would be prepared," she concluded.