In the earlier days, the team that performed better on the D-day always won. But in this day of advanced technology, just that may not be sufficient. There is more to it than just playing well. There is something beyond the talent and performance of the players on a given day.
There is likely to be a lot of disagreement with this view; the view that is widely accepted is that the better team of the day should and shall win. But the preparation that has gone into before the start of the day's game makes the side that has planned its strategy before hand have an edge over the other teams.
The Australian women's team, almost the unofficial world champions for the last two decades in spite of losing the 1993 World Cup, is backed by a team of officials who work overtime to give the team necessary inputs before they even play the opposition. Besides the usual physiotherapist et al, they have their coach John Harmer working on their skills/defects, their assistant coach videotapes the entire match, with the help of CricInfo, for working on the strengths and flaws after the day's game, while their scorer and statistician Erica Sainsbury culls out the statistics of their key players and the opponents.
The entire output (of this exercise) is then utilised by John Harmer and his colleagues to plan their strategy for the next game. More often than not, the coach makes them view their better shots and helps in boosting their confidence. Only defects that will affect their productivity in the middle are shown to the players and followed up by physical demonstration and practice of ways of avoiding such habits.
Karen Rolton, who scored over 150 runs against Ireland in this CricInfo Women's World Cup, and remained unbeaten, was marked as not too fast a runner between the wickets. But in the last year, this aspect of her batting has been addressed to and she has turned out to be one of the fastest runners between the wickets. This was very much in evidence in this tournament.
Most of the teams do their homework well ably assisted by the team management. Graham Dilley, the former England Test bowler, is part of the English contingent as a bowling coach. The way the field was set for the Indian opener Anjum Chopra when India played against England clearly indicated that a lot of planning had been done. They had obviously noticed Chopra's habit of trying mostly to play square of the wicket and the field placements were set accordingly from the word go. There was a gully, a backward point, a point and a backward square leg. Chopra had a horrifying time at the middle before she played across the line and was bowled for no score.
The Indian openers are experiencing problems but both have the talent and past performances to bring them out of this predicament. But they surely need help to iron out the defects they have developed without their knowledge, as it happens in every one's career. But what is being done to set right this is anybody's guess. Except perhaps for being angry with those who point out or write about it, I suppose!
The Indian team has a battery of officials accompanying them. A coach (Srirupa Bose) who has been in charge of the team for almost 7 years inclusive of the last two World Cup competitions, a cricket manager (Sudha Shah) who has a fount of cricketing knowledge, an assistant coach (Bawa) who is a qualified coach, an administrative manager (Alokraj) whose knowledge of the game appears to be good, a physiotherapist (Sudhakar) besides many admirers of the team who have a little knowledge of the game like "yours truly".
But I, for one, am not aware of the role Sudha Shah is playing. I think the role of a cricket manager becomes redundant when there is a coach in the side. But Srirupa is a veteran with vast experience of handling a team. It is time the think tank starts its act earnestly to ensure that India's highly talented team gets into the groove while playing Australia and New Zealand. India is assured of a berth in the semi-finals and it is important they beat both Australia and New Zealand to top the table and get to play South Africa in the semi-finals, since it appears to be the fourth team in the run for a berth in the last four.
I am aware it is a tall order but the Indian team is a talented one and highly motivated. Anju Jain led the team well when the chips were down and England appeared to be in with a chance in the run chase against India. She brought about the right bowling changes and even did not hesitate to ask a senior player, Purnima Rau, to move out of the key position of mid-wicket as the latter was off-colour. All these point to the right direction.
Anju Jain and Anjum Chopra seem to be having problems that won't be long in tackling if there is a will to do so. And primarily acceptance on their part; acceptance that there is a problem that needs to be solved by some net practice and a strong mental approach while out in the middle. All said and done, these two are the key batsmen for India and need to click.
India still needs to set right their batting order and give batting practice to the lower order (in the games against weaker teams), as they will be called upon to do duty against stronger teams. I, for one, think India will go into the final along with Australia if they can plan their strategy well. Amen!