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Match Analysis

India's bowlers try and step up in the absence of a bowling coach

With two months to go for the T20 World Cup, Harmanpreet Kaur's team is being tested by Australia's strong line-up

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
After losing the third T20I against Australia to go 2-1 down in the five-match series, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur admitted her side is missing a bowling coach but was happy with the way the bowlers are taking charge of the situation.
When Ramesh Powar was head coach, he used to take care of the bowling department, but India have not had a full-time bowling coach since he moved out of the role. Renuka Singh, who made her debut just over a year ago, is the leader of the pace attack, having played 30 internationals.
All of the first three games have had scores in excess of 170. While India couldn't defend 172 in the opening match, they conceded 187 in the second game and 172 in the third.
"I know we are missing a bowling coach but our bowlers are taking charge," Harmanpreet said after the 21-run defeat on Wednesday. "They are participative in bowlers meetings. They have full responsibility and today [it was] all their plans and they were leading the way, I was just supporting them in the middle.
In the absence of an experienced seamer in T20Is - read Shikha Pandey - Renuka has been thrust into the role of being India's prime bowler. Only two fast bowlers - both from UAE - have taken more T20I wickets than Renuka since her debut.
"Renuka has the experience because she has done well in the past six-seven months and has got good results," Harmanpreet said. "Whenever we set plans for pace bowlers she takes the lead and our video analysts give us a lot of information.
"Talking about spin bowlers, almost all spinners have played a lot of T20 cricket like Deepti [Sharma], Radha [Yadav], Rajeshwari [Gayakwad]. Devika [Vaidya] is new to the team but she also has the experience of international cricket and has done a lot of homework with respect to international cricket."
It's a tricky situation for a team aiming to win its first world title at the T20 World Cup next year. With less than two months to go before India take on Pakistan in the opening game, they are still zeroing in on their bowling attack. Minus a bowling coach that is.
After India's tour of England last August, Powar had emphasised on creating a fast-bowling pool, after which Renuka and Meghna Singh got their maiden call-ups for the tour of Australia in September.
While Renuka is a shoo-in, Meghna, who made her ODI debut last year but only played her first T20I earlier this year at the Commonwealth Games, was part of the first two matches against Australia before making way for Gayakwad in the third. In her nine T20Is so far, Meghna has bowled her quota of four overs only once.
India's reluctance to use a seam-heavy attack in white-ball cricket has resulted in Meghna often missing out on a spot in the XI. Until recently, Jhulan Goswami used to lead the attack in ODIs with Renuka and Pooja Vastrakar for company. In T20s, Renuka and Vastrakar often used to comprise the two-seamer attack.
Vastrakar was a key figure in India's seam-bowling plans but her injury has left India short of resources. As a result, Harmanpreet has had to rely on spin more than she would have liked in the penultimate series ahead of the T20 World Cup in February.
"[We are missing] Pooja for sure. On these tracks you need a medium pacer," Harmanpreet said. "Definitely when you bowl back-to-back spin bowling, it allows opposition batters to settle easily. We are definitely missing Pooja because she has the experience of death-overs bowling. We tried Meghna in the first two games but it didn't click."
In a bid to strengthen the pace department, India gave a debut to Anjali Sarvani, who became the first left-arm seamer to play a women's T20I for India. She came off a good domestic season, topping the bowling charts in the Senior Women's T20 Trophy as well as the Senior Women's inter-zonal T20s. After going wicketless in her first two games, Sarvani picked up two wickets in the third, which included a perfect inswinger to bowl Tahlia McGrath for her maiden wicket.
Australia scored only 26 for 2 in the first four overs, bowled by Sarvani and Renuka. "The way we bowled in the powerplay, especially Renuka and Anjali [was commendable]," Harmanpreet said. "They were swinging the ball and bowled according to the plan. They were not giving easy runs to the batters."
The squad India pick for the tri-series in South Africa, also featuring West Indies, is likely to be the one that goes to the T20 World Cup, where India will hope to better their runners-up finish from 2020. While Vastrakar's return will bolster their attack, they will hope they have more experience in their ranks and guidance from the dugout.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo