Tahlia McGrath: 2017 World Cup defeat to India 'reshaped our values'

Recent success against India unlikely to matter in Saturday's contest in Auckland, says star Australia allrounder

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Tahlia McGrath whips one through the leg side, New Zealand vs Australia,  Women's World Cup 2022, Wellington, March 13, 2022

Tahlia McGrath came into the World Cup after back-to-back Player-of-the-Series awards, against India and England  •  AFP via Getty Images

Neither Australia's loss in the 2017 ODI World Cup semi-final, nor their victory in the bilateral series last year will matter as they gear up to take on India at the World Cup on Saturday, and "anything can happen," feels Tahlia McGrath, who played a starring role in Australia's multi-format series wins over India and England in the lead-up to the World Cup.
"We've had a fair bit of success against them in the recent India series but [it's a] new location, new tournament, so anything can happen," McGrath said in Auckland, which will host its first match of the tournament when Australia take on India. "They're a world-class side, so we do our homework on them, be at training tomorrow, and then give us a chance to beat them on Saturday.
"That was a long time ago, that [2017 semi-final] game, one that probably was spoken about more immediately after that. It was something that we sort of really looked [at] and reshaped our values and how we approached… sort of how we play our brand of cricket. But over recent times, it's sort of not been something we've spoken about too much.
"So we're just pretty simple with our approach. Take every game as it comes and play the type of cricket that we want to play. So we're really happy with the brand we're playing at moment and hopefully more to come."
A win against undefeated Australia would be critical to India's chances of making the semi-finals. After Saturday's fixture, they face South Africa, the only other unbeaten side in the tournament, and Bangladesh, who defeated Pakistan last week to script their maiden win in what is their debut at the World Cup.
Asked if Australia could face a resurgent India after their chastening defeat to England on Wednesday, McGrath echoed her team-mate Ellyse Perry in underlining that India's batting line-up and pace spearhead Jhulan Goswami could put them under pressure.
"The last 12 months was probably just about fine-tuning my game. There was a few little areas there, where I sort of would premeditate things and not really know how to construct my innings"
Tahlia McGrath
"We sort of expect every team to come pretty hard at us," McGrath said. "Pretty aggressive-type cricket teams play against us, and that's why we like it. So we're trying to be challenged. We're expecting, yes, some hard-hitting and, of course, Goswami with the ball, so we're expecting a really good game."
McGrath, who made her international debut in November 2016 aged 21, had missed out on selection in the 2017 World Cup because of a stress fractures in the back. After that, she was unable to break into the national side for their title-winning T20I campaigns in 2018 and 2020.
Despite not playing any international cricket between November 2017 and October 2020, McGrath had been handed a Cricket Australia contract for 2020. That move, aimed at keeping her in the scheme of things, has brought Australia rich dividends. After returning to the national team during the India series, McGrath, now 26, won the Player-of-the-Series award and then repeated the feat with a stellar all-round show in the home Ashes earlier this year.
"The last 12 months was probably just about fine-tuning my game," McGrath said. "There was a few little areas there, where I sort of would premeditate things and not really know how to construct my innings. So just about fine-tuning a few things and then getting my fitness right, getting my strength right. And overall consistency is probably the main one. So it's kind of hard to train consistency but just that sort of intensity that I brought to my training - that's probably the biggest difference.
"I've been wanting to be a part of a World Cup for so long now. And so far, it's been everything I've expected - it's obviously a little bit different with Covid and the restrictions, but I'm just loving it. The whole excitement around the tournament, the constant travel, playing a different opponent every game, I just love every bit of it."
McGrath sat out the game against Pakistan on March 8 with a sore heel but played against West Indies on Tuesday, bowling four overs for 17 runs. On Thursday, she said that her absence in the Pakistan game was a precautionary measure.
"It's never happened to me before, I've never had any problems with my feet, but I woke up the day after the England game and felt like there was a stone under my heel," she explained. "[Missing the Pakistan game] was just about making sure I got on top of it early so that it didn't have a big impact on me coming to the back-end of the tournament.
"I'm feeling good… we've got a really good medical team here looking after me and everyone on tour, (so) hopefully that's behind me now."

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