India's poor fielding has been a worry for the side through this Quadrangular tournament and a glut of missed run-out chances and misfields in the outfield cost them dear in their 91-run defeat against New Zealand at Chepauk. New Zealand, led by Suzie Bates's maiden century, are now through to the final on March 5. India will have to beat Australia in their must-win final match if they are to join them.
The Indian captain, Mithali Raj, admitted that the fielding had been disappointing so far. "There were a lot of chances in the initial overs and if we had got even one hit at the wicket we would have had New Zealand in a spot," Raj told Cricinfo. Haidee Tiffen, the New Zealand captain, was dropped at gully when she was on 6, and went on to feature in a century partnership with Bates. The bowlers, Raj insisted, had done well but they hadn't got enough support from their fielders.
Raj also explained that, although India does not have a fielding coach, the team requests the services of a local expert at every venue they play. "We have been concentrating on collecting and then throwing from the outfield," she added. "But we also practise throwing at the stumps and slip catching."
New Zealand, by contrast, are very impressive in their running between the wickets, diving in the outfield and aiming at the stumps, and in that department they make India look like a grade A side. "The girls are willing to throw themselves around to save runs and fortunately no-one has got injured in doing so," said Haidee Tiffen, the New Zealand captain. "This keeps the confidence up and we keep trying."
Tiffen added that after New Zealand's defeat to Australia, the team had sat down to work out where they were going wrong. "We had to make sure that we'd get some solid partnerships. We had a slow start though as [Jhulan] Goswami and [Rumeli] Dhar bowled well. But I am very proud of Bates and the rest of the girls for coming back after the defeat so well."
Bates herself was very happy to get her century especially, she admitted, since the first three or four days of the tour had been very hard. "It was extremely hot to start out with and is nowhere near the temperatures in New Zealand right now," said Bates, who suffered cramps towards the end of her innings today but decided to carry on after she had taken some salts and liquids.
Bates agreed with Tiffen that India's opening bowling pair of Goswami and Dhar were the hardest to play among the three teams. But now with New Zealand through to the final, she can enjoy her nightly routine of sipping masala chai with her team-mates at their hotel, as she confessed she had been doing for a few days now.