Shikha Pandey: 'If the batters can't get us runs, we bowlers need to fight hard and back them'

'Every time I get onto the field, the aim is to contribute to the team's success in whichever way I can'

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Shikha Pandey is eyeing better all-round returns on the tour of England following her performance with the ball in the second ODI, where she picked up 9-1-34-1, her economy the best among the Indian attack.
Though India lost the match, Pandey was pivotal to setting the tone of India's attempt to defend 221 and the bowling unit's much-improved performance. She gave away just two runs in her first two overs, including a maiden, and got the ball to hoop early, causing discomfort to Tammy Beaumont, the in-form England opener.
Heading into the third and final ODI in Worcester on Saturday, which then leads into the three-match T20I series, Pandey, 32, was hopeful to build on her outing in the second ODI in Taunton.
"Not setting long-term goals," Pandey said when asked about the all-round role she may be expected to play in the 2022 ODI World Cup. "That's not really something that works for me, so [I'm] just setting short-term goals. For me it's one session, one spell, one ball at a time when I'm going in to bowl. I think I have found some rhythm back in the second game, so just going to go ahead, follow the basics and keep doing all I can.
"As a bowling allrounder, I am, yes, supposed to be scoring runs and every time I get onto the field, the aim is to contribute to the team's success in whichever way I can. There are goals being set but at a very short-term basis; no long-term goals in mind. So, it's just the game tomorrow and bowl well and in case I get to bat, probably score better and contribute a lot more with the bat."
The solitary wicket - of opener Lauren Winfield-Hill - Pandey took in Taunton was also her first one on the tour.
Winfield-Hill's dismissal was as much a result of Pandey's ability to entice a set batter into prodding at an away-going delivery as it was of Taniya Bhatia's deft work with the gloves. Standing up to the two seamers, Jhulan Goswami and Pandey, Bhatia, in sparkling form throughout the series effecting four dismissals in three innings, snagged the faintest of edges to dismiss Winfield-Hill for 42.
"Firstly, I am huge fan of Taniya," Pandey said. "The kind of keeping, standing up to the stumps to medium pacers is not an easy job and the way she stood up to us, even with the new ball, is amazing. You can count on your fingers the number of keepers that can do that in international cricket. So, firstly, it's commendable what she is doing for us.
"It's a few, small, little things we noticed on the field that if the England batters are standing way too outside the crease and I'm the swing bowler, so my swing gets negated," Pandey said, elaborating on the thinking that prompted Bhatia to stand up to the stumps. "There are pretty practical decisions being taken on the ground that we need to get them to play from the crease and that's how Taniya comes in.
"I think the first wicket we got yesterday [of Beaumont, being bowled by Goswami], Taniya standing up to the stumps made a huge difference. So, firstly, Taniya is doing a great job for us and it's just about responding to the situations on the field."
After the loss in the first ODI, captain Mithali Raj had called for the Indian seam attack to take more responsibility and support Goswami, the pace spearhead, better. Pandey said the seamers' improved performance in the second match was down mainly to having drawn up more well-defined plans.
"[After the first match] We just sat down and spoke about what we are capable of and backing out strengths and having clearer plans in place and just going by them and not looking too much for the wickets and just keeping it tight," Pandey said. "That was what was said: to keep our plans simple and going about our business early in the innings.
"I think we did pretty well in all departments in the second game and we are catching up," she said. "Considering this is a multi-format series, we know going ahead if we win all four games we can still win it.
"We are not really gauging ourselves against them; it's just about backing ourselves, and we know as a team we are a very good team and when we play to our strengths, we have a good day and we know we can beat any team in the world. We are just backing ourselves and looking forward to the next game and not thinking too about much about what has happened."
Head coach Ramesh Powar, she said, had also played a part in keeping the team's morale up.
"He has backed us a lot," Pandey said. "Even after the second game, the talk in the dressing room was very positive. He has always said if we play to our potential, to what our strengths are, we can beat any team in the world. He has got full confidence in us and he backs us as a group. I mean, what else do we need? As a coach he has been very helpful in all three departments. He has backed us a lot."
India's first-innings totals so far in the series - 201 and 221 - have hardly been a challenge to the England line-up. Aside from Raj and Shafali Verma, no other India batter has been able to make an imprint on the scoring substantially. However, Pandey said the onus to win the team a match was as much the batters' responsibility as it was of the bowling contingent's.
"I wouldn't say batting is the main concern," she said. "At the very outset, I can give you a player's perspective. When I get into a game, we think about all three aspects of the game together. So if the batters cannot get us runs, it's us, the bowlers, the bowling unit, we need to fight hard and back the batters. I wouldn't say it is one department of the game that's lacking.
"If we can get all the three [departments clicking] together on the day, we will be doing well. Thinking too much about what has happened is not really going to help us, so just thinking ahead about what we can do as a team together. Whatever runs the batters score, the bowlers have to defend it and whatever runs the bowlers initially get the other team to score, the batting team has to go chase it."

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