What does it tell you about a team when they post their highest total
in an ODI World Cup in one game and their lowest
in the tournament in 17 years
in the next? "There's no explanation," according to Smriti Mandhana
, but it's clear that India's batting is inconsistent, an issue that troubled them in the past World Cup cycle too.
"Well, if I had an explanation, I would have definitely discussed in the team dressing room, but I wouldn't say there's any explanation because you cannot really… there's no explanation we can give for something like that," Mandhana said ahead of Saturday's big contest against Australia.
Going from 317 in a 144-run win over West Indies to 134 in a four-wicket loss to England was bad enough, but made worse by the fact that the defeat has pushed India towards a league-stage elimination.
"In the series [against New Zealand last month], our batters were really doing well. We were getting a good total on board," Mandhana, who scored 123 against West Indies and 35 against England, said. "But, yeah, in the last four matches, our batting unit together hasn't clicked and that's something which we all really want to work on, and I'm sure there will be a perfect game for the batters.
"Of course, our bowlers are doing [an] amazing job. They just need a little more support from the batters to get the 'W' on the board."
In all of India's four outings so far at this World Cup, two of which they have won, wickets falling in clusters has been a feature. Mandhana stressed the need for set batters, including herself, to show more judiciousness with their approach, something Mithali Raj, too, had underlined
ahead of the start of the tournament.
"It's not that every day all the seven batters are going to click. So, our thing is, whoever two or three [batters] are getting to time the ball well, it's their responsibility to play the 50 overs and get to a respectable total"
"We have been losing wickets back to back and that's something which we, as a batting unit, want to address," Mandhana said. "Fifty-overs [cricket] is all about partnerships, good partnerships, so we definitely want to work on it. As set batters, it's more responsibility on that batter to take the game forward from that time when you know you're able to time the ball well.
"That's something I'll be really conscious about, that we don't lose wickets back to back and develop a partnership from there, because one or two good partnerships [and] we'll be able to post a total which will be a good one to defend."
Mandhana, like Jhulan Goswami
, backed allrounder Deepti Sharma
to make bigger contributions with the bat than her returns of 5, 15, and 0 that have followed her 40 in India's tournament opener.
"See, when you come to a tournament or go to [bilateral] series, not all batters are going to be able to bat in a certain way," Mandhana said. "She [Deepti] scored a good 40 runs in the first match. But yeah, in last three matches, she was not able to contribute. But I'm sure that she's just one game away from getting a good score.
"As a batting unit, we are just there to back everyone because it's not that every day all the seven batters are going to click. So our thing is, whoever two or three [batters] are getting to time the ball well, it's their responsibility to play the 50 overs and get to a respectable total."
The Australia vs India game will be the first at Auckland's Eden Park at this World Cup. Rain is forecast for Saturday, and Mandhana said India have that "at the back of our mind".
Only a win for India can delay Australia's entry into the semi-finals, while a loss would further dent, though not entirely wipe out, India's chances of qualifying. A no-result will leave Australia at the top of the table
, while India will remain in fourth place.
According to Australia head coach Matthew Mott
, it will be a "fast bouncy wicket", which will mean that the teams will rely heavily on their quicks, especially in the powerplay.
"We will certainly be encouraging everyone to be aggressive at the start. We want to take early wickets, which we've done pretty well throughout the tournament," Mott said. "But if they do get on top, there's some Plan Bs and Cs that we've got up our sleeve - whether it's wide, wide lines or change in pace.
"Every bowler in our squad is very different. So when Meg [Lanning, the captain] asks them to bowl, [it's about] making sure they're really clear on what their job is at the time. And that's really important for our structure. So, with a number of bowling options, it does give Meg plenty of opportunity to be flexible - shorter spells, if there's a wind up, certain bowlers might bowl into it.
"Having come in from Wellington in the last couple of days, where the conditions have been quite disruptive at times with big winds and gusts, I think our bowling group are pretty good to adapt to these conditions as well."
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha