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India focused primarily on 2022 women's World Cup, says Ramesh Powar

India also working on its young fast bowlers ahead of Australia tour, says head coach

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
India women head coach Ramesh Powar has emphatically stated World Cup preparation assumes top priority, and winning momentum from there will be the best possible preparation for the team's maiden pink-ball Test in Perth.
Ahead of India's departure for Australia, it was understandable that Powar was repeatedly asked about the team's Test preparations. The match at WACA will be India's second Test in a span of three months.
"I think we need to understand we are going to play ODIs first," Powar said. "World Cup [in February-March next year] is a very important tournament for us and we're focusing on that. If you see only the one-off Test, we can't go in with a mindset of preparing for that.
"I think it is about taking the one-day confidence into Test. The last series, the way we came back, without our stars getting their rhythm, I'm confident that we don't have to prepare separately for the pink-ball Test. We back our players in the format, and they are good enough to react to the situation."
"In the fast-bowling department, we are looking for consistency so that Jhulan can express herself. Because of lack of partnership, she is defensive which we don't want as team. And we are giving her that support"
Ramesh Powar
It's not often that India head into a tour of Australia being better prepared than the hosts, whose last international assignment was against New Zealand in April. In comparison, India first had a home series against South Africa in March followed by a two-month tour to the UK in the summer.
They topped up further with a 15-day conditioning camp in Bengaluru, where a group of 35 probables trained in preparation for the series. The players trained under lights, played intra-squad matches, underwent stringent fitness sessions, and team bonding sessions apart from skill-based training.
Extra focus was on India's group of young fast bowlers, in line with Powar wanting to give them enough exposure and access to top-flight training, to have a competent attack that can help take the pressure off Jhulan Goswami.
Meghna Singh, the Railways medium pacer, and Renuka Singh, the Himachal seam-bowling allrounder, are the two uncapped players on tour, who are part of a pace bowling group also consisting of Goswami, Shikha Pandey and Pooja Vastrakar.
"We have to have support to Jhulan Goswami," Powar said. "If she is consistent over a period of time, we need to find a partner who can bowl in partnership so that we can get the desired results. We have Meghna [Singh] and Pooja [Vastrakar]. We are not just focusing on Meghna, there is Pooja who is an allrounder and we are looking forward to her skill set.
"Everyone selected in this team has the skill set to do it, I don't want to get into why she is in, and someone is not. Once selectors and team management decide this is the 15, we go with it because we want to stay on the same page. In the fast-bowling department, we are looking for consistency so that Jhulan can express herself. Because of lack of partnership, she is defensive which we don't want as team. And we are giving her that support."
Powar also insisted while they've tried to prepare for the Test in the best possible way, taking markers and cues from their experience in England and situational awareness will be key to them competing well.
"We will definitely carry the confidence of playing in the longer format," he said. "The Test in Australia will be slightly different because we will be playing with the pink ball under lights. The experience will be different because we have never played with the pink ball under lights before.
"I'm sure the girls are following the men's Test in England, where the momentum changes in the longer format. The way we play is how the situation is on the ground, how the game unfolds in a particular day, in a particular session. We don't go in with a set mindset. It's all about how we apply ourselves at that moment."
Australia has stringent restrictions in place for a potential third wave of Covid-19, with several cities having enforced a lockdown. With bio-bubble restrictions set to be strict, the team will in all probability be locked in their hotels apart from visiting grounds for training and matches. This may seem arduous for some, but not for this Indian team, according to Powar.
"Looking at the current situation, we're happy to go to Australia and keep playing cricket," he said. "After England we just had one month off. It's a good thing that we're going to go there and play cricket which is something we're looking forward to. We back our strength. We don't go by just practice games. We've played enough in the Bengaluru camp to say we are prepared, and we can play any format."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo