India coach backs out-of-form Harmanpreet

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Queenstown (New Zealand) (UNI): India women’s cricket team head coach Ramesh Powar on Friday backed Harmanpreet Kaur, who is enduring a lean patch, saying, “it is up to her to get back into form”.

The 32-year-old has been given a long rope by the selectors as well as coach Powar even though she made only two 50-plus scores in the ODI format since her 171 not out at the 2017 World Cup semifinal.

Harmanpreet had fitness issues last year but after an impressive WBBL, where she was adjudged Player of the Tournament, she was expected to replicate that performance in the bilateral rubber between India and New Zealand.

In the must-win third ODI against New Zealand, India went down by three wickets and lost the series 0-3 with two matches left.  Harmanpreet has only managed to score 10, 10, and 13 in her outings against the Kiwis.

“I will stick to my statement that it is up to Harman to get back into form because it is a player’s mind which works in the pressure situation. We can create those nets, but again it is up to her to come out of that zone and do well,” said Powar at a virtual media interaction while replying to a UNI query.

Interestingly, a similar statement was made by Powar at India’s pre-departure press conference ahead of the limited-overs series against New Zealand which serves as a final preparation for the upcoming 50-over World Cup.

While Harmanpreet is yet to fire for India, the Mithali Raj-led side also missed the services of opener Smriti Mandhana and pacer Meghna Singh in spite of both being out of the managed isolation and quarantine system (MIQ).

When asked about Smriti and Meghna’s absence, Powar said, “There is some confidentiality which we have to respect because we are on a foreign soil and have to go by their rules and regulations. As far as Smriti is concerned, she will be available for the next game. There are some MIQ rules which we have to follow in New Zealand. I cannot get into about the rules because I don’t know them. Smriti and Meghna will be available for the next game”.

Sabbhineni Meghana (61) and Shafali Verma (51) gave India a flying start, stitching a 100-run opening partnership. However, the never-ending middle-order woes once again cocked up the perfect start. Towards the end, Deepti Sharma’s unbeaten run-a-ball 69 helped India post 279.

Powar had no qualms in accepting India’s inconsistency but stressed, “There were a lot of positives as well. I don’t want to blame my players for not being consistent. It is because of short of practice, match simulation, and proper matches that is hurting us.

“There are a few things which we are trying to address, want to give match time to each and every player in the squad because you never know which player can come in. Wanted to give Taniya (Bhatia) some game time. Richa (Ghosh) has done well. There is a workload management, we missed our genuine fast bowlers. We played with Jhulan and Simran (Bahadur) and today with Jhulan and Renuka (Singh Thakur) because of unavailability,” he added.

Veteran speedster Jhulan Goswami’s early twin strikes for India set the momentum for the bowlers. But the leakage of runs and misfielding in the middle overs brought New Zealand back into the game, with Amelia Kerr (67) and Amy Satterthwaite (59) stitching a solid 103-run stand for the third wicket. India had their chance but just could not grab it, and Lauren Down (64 not out) and Frances Mackay (17 not out) took New Zealand home.

“When we assess one T20I and three ODIs, we had just three days of practice. In less time you can’t get into a competitive series. So, there will be some rustiness in their approach. A lot of things have been discussed, in bowling we are trying to address middle overs where we can pick up wickets. There was a 100-run partnership, we are trying to break that. Have to give it to players, they have tried their best with limited practice, Covid-19 situation and quarantine.

“We tried different bowling attacks, with limitations of unavailability of fast bowlers. We are trying to get everyone in this zone where they can bowl at any time – be it powerplays, middle overs or death overs. We are trying to create combinations. We have not set like we will go with 5 or 6 bowlers as every opponent is different.

“I am not concerned about anything right now. I am of the opinion that our bowlers are bowling 10 overs, they are getting match time, and they have a skillset. When the pressure comes, they will rise against that pressure and they will do well in the World Cup. You have to wait and see the combination we put up, there is no final combination right now. You have to be a little patient with us,” he signed off.

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