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Batting coach Das backs 'world-class' Mandhana to come good

He also confirmed that Harmanpreet Kaur's thumb injury would keep her out of the second ODI

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Smriti Mandhana made 16 in the first ODI  •  EPA

Smriti Mandhana made 16 in the first ODI  •  EPA

Shiv Sunder Das, the India Women batting coach, believes scoring at least 60 runs in the powerplay could in some measure help address the team's inability to post competitive totals in ODIs. He echoed captain Mithali Raj when emphasising the role of openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma in achieving that goal, and backed Mandhana's "ability to get runs for us".
"We have been working on that aspect of the game," Das said of India's innings-construction plans ahead of the second ODI. "We have blocked 10 overs each for each batter. We are looking at a good start to start with and, obviously, in the middle overs we are looking at an average of five runs [per over] and at the end we're looking at six runs per over. Basically, that is our batting plan.
"In the nets we have tried a few things. It's about the individual - how they react to the game, especially at the start of the innings. We have Shafali Verma and Smriti, so basically we are looking at a good start. Obviously, [in the] last few games we didn't have a good start, [but] I am very positive as the batting coach. They'll put up a good start and once you put up a good start of about 60-70 runs in 10 overs, that momentum you can carry into the middle overs. You will see the difference tomorrow."
In their last 10 ODIs, India have only twice scored more than 50 in the first 10 overs, with a best score of 57 for 1 in the third ODI against South Africa in March. On three occasions, they've failed to reach the 40 mark within the first 10 overs.
After India's crushing nine-wicket defeat in the opening ODI on Tuesday, Raj had said she expected the experienced Mandhana to take the lead and contribute more runs at the top of the order. She called for the openers to put on at least 50 to alleviate the pressure on the middle order. Das, for his part, was hopeful Mandhana would be able to live up to her role in the forthcoming ODIs.
"I had a one-to-one chat with her [Mandhana] and in the last two sessions we have worked hard in the nets," Das said. "We have addressed a few issues and, as you know, she is a world-class player, and we are backing her ability to get runs for us. Definitely we will see the difference in tomorrow's game."
Das also confirmed that India will be without their designated vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur for a second straight match given she is yet to recover from the thumb injury she sustained at training last week.
Appointed India's batting coach on a tour-by-tour basis for the away series against England in June, Das was one of the few members on the coaching staff to be retained for the Australia assignment. A former Test opener, he previously worked with the India Women A team, including during the 2020 quadrangular series in Patna, and was roped in for the England series - which, like the ongoing tour, featured a standalone Test - primarily owing to his experience as a Test and first-class cricketer.
Strike rotation, he said, remains a primary area of concern for the India line-up. He also stressed that a largely young and inexperienced line-up would need a little more time to get used to Australian conditions.
"The first ten overs… we have addressed that issue," Das said. "The running between the wickets is an area we are still working on. It's a work in progress; you have to see there are a few young batters in our side and it's a good side. You have to give them some time. Once they get used to these conditions, I think they will definitely fire.
"We have been working on a few aspects of the rotation of strike. Basically we're focused on their strengths. Now, because it's in [the middle of] the series, we have identified a few areas. It's a work in progress. Definitely in the future series, they'll definitely come good.
"If you see our team, we have a lot of youngsters. Yastika [Bhatia] got an opportunity; she batted well. It's definitely a new challenge for them. All these wickets - they are good batting wickets, and I hope they'll perform well tomorrow."
To counter Australia's short-ball ploy, which reaped the hosts high dividends in the first ODI, Das said India had chalked up plans in their practice sessions, especially against the 18-year-old quick Darcie Brown, who took 4 for 33 on Tuesday. She had accounted for Verma and Deepti Sharma with short-pitched deliveries.
"The last two days we had net sessions, particularly because she bowls back-of-the-hand short balls, so we have identified a few areas and all the top-order batters, we have had a plan and I have had a one-to-one chat with them," Das said. "I think we'll see the difference in tomorrow's game."

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha