India were outplayed thoroughly in the first ODI on Thursday at the Wankhede Stadium despite the hosts notching up their highest-ever total against Australia — 282/8 — riding on the brilliance of Jemimah Rodrigues (82) and Pooja Vastrakar (62 not out).
When it came to defending the total, India used seven different bowlers including Harmanpreet (3-0-32-0) but to no avail, as Australia romped home with more than three overs and six wickets to spare.
India’s crushing defeat was not only their eighth consecutive at home but the manner in which the hosts went down would create some concerns in the dressing room.
After Sneh Rana flew to her left to take a diving catch to get rid of Alyssa Healy in the first over off Renuka Singh, India’s fielding dropped and plenty of errors in the field assisted the Australian pair of Phoebe Litchfield and Ellyse Perry as they piled up a 148-run stand for the second wicket.
India’s new ball bowlers, particularly Vastrakar, could not impose themselves and the fate was same for the senior spinners Deepti Sharma (1/55) and Rana, who had created a lot of trouble for the visiting batters during the one-off Test at this venue last week.
As it was the case on her T20I debut, Saika Ishaque (6-0-48-0) faced troubles settling down as a bowler and plenty of mistakes in the field only added to the team’s woes.
Before Rodrigues and Vastrakar rescued India with their 68-run stand for the eighth wicket, India were struggling with the bat with most of the batters not able to convert their starts as well.
But the ask will be tough for India to put this loss behind and recover quickly in a day’s time for the second ODI, their seventh match across formats in the last 23 days in this packed home season.
Playing top-flight cricket consistently could take its toll and India Women will have to find their ways around it as they play an overall 11 matches across formats in a mere 35 days.
It also remains to be seen if vice-captain and key opening batter Smriti Mandhana, who missed the first ODI for being unwell, would be available for the second match.
Similarly, there were no further updates on Rodrigues than that she struggled with hydration issues. The right-handed batter, at one stage during her innings, ran towards the team dugout to throw up as she battled intense heat and humidity while producing one of her finest innings at the biggest stage.
The biggest challenge, however, for the think tank as well as those on the field, would be to find ways to stop this long and daunting Australian batting line-up.
The Indians will also have to find a way to stop the Australian vice-captain Tahlia McGrath, who has struck three fifties on this tour already and looks in prime form.
The pitch for the first ODI was a batting-friendly surface and is not expected to be a lot different for the remaining two matches at this venue, which implies bowling would be India’s biggest concern going into this contest.
For Australia, it was a near-perfect outing with the team putting up a fine show in the field even though they leaked runs in the death overs.
India scored 56 off the final six overs in one final push which made Australia’s task only tougher, but death overs bowling and batting is one area that the visitors want to improve upon.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Richa Ghosh (wk), Amanjot Kaur, Shreyanka Patil, Mannat Kashyap, Saika Ishaque, Renuka Singh Thakur, Titas Sadhu, Pooja Vastrakar, Sneh Rana, Harleen Deol.
Australia: Darcie Brown, Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Alyssa Healy (c&wk), Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney (wk), Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham.
Time: 1:30pm IST.